The public battle between Brazil President Michel Temer and the world’s largest meat producer sharpened when JBS SA owner Joesley Batista was quoted as saying Temer heads the country’s “largest and most dangerous criminal organization.”
Temer’s office said Saturday that the president will sue Batista in response to accusations made in an interview with the weekly magazine Epoca. The JBS owner said Temer used to brazenly ask for money for himself and his allies. “He’s not a ceremonious guy with money,” Batista was quoted as saying.
More from Bloomberg.com: May Is Living Brexit Nightmare She Warned Of
Those were just the latest turns in the sprawling corruption probe, known as Operation Carwash, that’s implicated many of the country’s business and political elite and helped bring on the 2016 impeachment of Temer’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff. The nation’s Supreme Court has authorized an investigation into Temer on accusations of passive corruption and obstruction of justice.
The latest chapter has featured the emergence of testimony in which Batista and his brother Wesley describe a wide-ranging scheme of illicit payments, and a recording of Temer appearing to approve a payment of hush money to former Lower House speaker Eduardo Cunha. J&F Investimentos SA, which controls assets including JBS, agreed in May to a leniency deal that calls for it to pay a large fine while avoiding prosecution for bribery.
More from Bloomberg.com: Trump Could Force Out Rosenstein, Fail to Stop Russia Probe
Temer, 76, has denied all accusations of wrongdoing, said he won’t resign, and has pushed ahead with economic reforms including an overhaul of Brazil’s pension system. The president was narrowly acquitted earlier this month of electoral board charges that he and Rousseff illegally financed their 2014 campaign.
Cunha, who’s currently in jail, used to refer to Temer as his superior, Joesley Batista said to the magazine. “Temer is the head of the House’s criminal organization,” he said, naming other politicians from the group. “This group is very dangerous.”
More from Bloomberg.com: Don’t Underestimate This U.S. Expansion: It’s Headed to a Record
The Brazil Presidency press office, in a statement, said Temer will sue Batista “for the damages caused not only to the institution of Presidency of the Republic, but to Brazil.”
“Joesley Batista is the notorious bandit of greatest success in Brazilian history,” the press office said in the release, saying that JBS built corrupt relationships with “governments of the past, long before President Michel Temer arrived at the Planalto.”
More from Bloomberg.com
- Trump Lashes Out at Top Justice Official, Confirms He's Focus of Probe
- Mueller’s Expanding Probe Raises Stakes for Trump Presidency
- Trump Reveals Flat Revenue at Controversial Washington Hotel
Read Brazil's President Vows to Sue JBS Owner Over `Criminal' Label on bloombergpolitics.com