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Who's who in Brazil's presidential corruption scandal

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Michel Temer on Monday became the first president of Brazil to face criminal charges while still in office. Here are the five main people to watch in the growing scandal.

[SAO PAULO] Michel Temer on Monday became the first president of Brazil to face criminal charges while still in office. Here are the five main people to watch in the growing scandal.

Michel Temer

The Brazilian political veteran was a behind-the-scenes operator before sweeping to power a year ago.

A conservative member of the PMDB party, he was in an uncomfortable alliance as vice-president with leftist president Dilma Rousseff. When the PMDB turned on her and helped get her impeached for breaking budget rules, Mr Temer automatically took over.

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The son of Lebanese immigrants with a fancy for writing poetry, Mr Temer promised stability and economic austerity reforms to push Brazil out of its worst recession in history.

For months, he appeared immune to the corruption probes swirling around many of his allies and even a third of his cabinet. That luck ran out when bribery charges were filed Monday.

With single digit popularity ratings, Mr Temer, 76, might appear to have little hope of staying on. He was even booed loudly in the Maracana stadium when he opened the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

However, the wily politician - married to a former beauty queen four decades his junior - reckons he can keep enough support in the scandal-ridden Congress to ward off the criminal charges, which need a two-thirds majority vote to proceed.

Joesley Batista

Mr Batista, who owns J&F, parent company of JBS meatpackers, is the man who might bring Mr Temer down.

A billionaire executive, Mr Batista was charged with running a huge bribery scheme - in common with other big Brazilian corporations - in which Mr Temer was one of some 2,000 politicians taking payments over a 10 year period.

To secure leniency, Mr Batista, 44, signed a plea bargain and agreed to provide prosecutors with details of his alleged payments to Mr Temer.

He also handed over a secret recording of a late night conversation with Mr Temer, who is allegedly heard agreeing to pay hush money to a politician already jailed for corruption.

Rodrigo Rocha Loures

Mr Loures is a former congressman and close Temer aide who allegedly acted as bagman for the bribery transactions.

Prosecutors released surveillance footage showing Loures running down a street with a black suitcase allegedly containing 500,000 reais (about S$208 million) in bribe cash.

Mr Temer says his ex-aide was duped and did nothing wrong. For now Mr Loures has signalled he will not sign a plea deal to testify against the president.

Rodrigo Janot

As prosecutor general, Mr Janot has presided at the sharp end of Brazil's gigantic anti-graft investigation codenamed "Car Wash". The probe has uncovered systemic embezzlement from state-owned Petrobras oil company and kickbacks in which companies paid politicians bribes for contracts and favours.

Mr Janot became top prosecutor in 2013 as "Car Wash" got underway and since then he has been involved in the prosecutions and probes of a string of high-profile figures including former house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Mr Janot has now gone a step higher with the bribery charges against Mr Temer. He has also indicated he will file more charges, promising an extended legal assault against Mr Temer that could bleed the president's support away in Congress.

Rodrigo Maia

Although he is the son of a former Rio de Janeiro governor, Mr Maia was relatively obscure when he took over as speaker of the house following the experienced Cunha's fall in 2016.

Because there was no longer a vice president, he became first in line for the presidency. That seemed academic until now.

But if Congress votes to accept Mr Janot's charges against Mr Temer the president would be suspended for six months to go on trial. In that case Mr Maia, 47, would automatically take over as temporary leader.

He has indicated strongly for now that he wants Mr Temer to remain in power and for Congress to reject the charges against him.

One problem? Mr Maia, like many of his legislative colleagues, also faces a corruption probe.

AFP

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