Brazil’s top prosecutor is accusing President Michel Temer of corruption and obstruction of justice, according to an investigation released by the country’s supreme court on Friday.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot’s charges dramatically increase the threat to drive the president out of office and represent an extraordinary escalation of a corruption probe.
The formal accusations are the latest revelations related to a secretly recorded audio that purportedly captured Mr Temer endorsing the paying of hush money to an ex-politician now serving a 15-year prison sentence for corruption.
The audio was first reported by Globo newspaper on Wednesday night.
In a plea bargain by the same man who recorded Mr Temer, released as part of the document dump by the Supreme Tribunal Federal, the president is accused of taking 1.5 million dollars (£1.15 million) in bribes.
Mr Janot says Mr Temer and Senator Aecio Neves have tried to derail the “Car Wash” probe via legislative means and by influencing police investigators.
“In this way, there is evidence of possibly committing the crime of obstructing justice,” Mr Janot wrote.
Meanwhile, Mr Temer’s administration began questioning both the legality and content of the recording.
“President Michel Temer does not believe in the veracity of the declarations” in the recording, according to a statement from his office.
The statement also noted the person who made the recording, JBS meat-packing company executive Joesley Batista, is under investigation and thus was “taking advantage” of the situation.
The recording was turned over to prosecutors as part of a Batista plea bargain.
Local media outlets reported the president planned to have the audio analysed, though his office declined to confirm that.
In the documents released on Friday, Mr Batista also said his company paid Mr Temer about 1.5 million dollars from 2010 to 2017.
Some of those funds were disguised as legal campaign donations and others were channelled to his public image consultant Elsinho Mouco, according to Mr Batista.
Brazil’s highest court opened an investigation into the accusation against Mr Temer on Thursday and lifted the seal on the nearly 39-minute recording, which is scratchy and often inaudible.
Mr Temer addressed the nation on Thursday, denying he had authorised any bribes and vowing to continue in office.
The revelations are the latest fallout from the “Car Wash” investigation into a kickback scheme at state oil company Petrobras.
Launched three years ago, dozens of the country’s top businessmen and politicians have been jailed and many more are being investigated.
Later on Friday, the entirety of Batista’s plea bargain was expected to be released.
At least eight pieces of proposed legislation to impeach Mr Temer have been submitted in Congress and a steady stream of people from many walks of life are continue to call for him to step down.
On Friday, former Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa added his voice.
“There is not another way out: Brazilians must organise, go to the streets and demand with strength the immediate resignation of Michel Temer,” tweeted Mr Barbosa.