Federal police in Brazil have arrested several people in connection with an investigation into whether President Michel Temer accepted bribes for favours to companies operating at the country's largest port, the Attorney General's Office has announced.
Rodrimar, a company at the centre of the inquiry, confirmed that its president, Antonio Celso Grecco, was arrested and that police searched its headquarters in Santos, where the port is located. The company said the warrant would allow Ceslo Grecco to be held for five days.
The investigation is looking into a decree signed by Temer that allegedly favoured Rodrimar and potentially other companies in exchange for a payoff. Rodrimar said in statement that it was "surprised" at the arrests and that in its 70 years of existence "it never paid a bribe to any public servant and never authorised anyone to do so in its name." It claimed that the decree didn't benefit any company. The statement said the company and Celso Grecco were surprised by Thursday's action.
Rodrimar issued a statement saying it was "surprised" at the arrests and that in its 70 years of existence "it never paid a bribe to any public servant and never authorized anyone to do so in its name."
According to Brazilian news outlets, others arrested included: Jose Yunes, a former aide to Temer and a close friend; João Batista Lima, a former police coronel who is reportedly close to Temer; and Wagner Rossi, a minister in a previous government who once ran the entity that administers the port.
The Attorney General's Office and police declined to name anyone arrested. Prosecutors, however, said the four could be held in preventative detention for an initial five days. The indictments were sealed.
The arrests were authorised by Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, who is overseeing the Santos investigation.
Yunes' lawyer called his client's detention "unacceptable" and "illegal."
The G1 news portal published a video showing Lima being put into an ambulance Thursday morning as a uniformed federal police officer watched. An Associated Press photographer saw Rossi arrive at the São Paulo federal police station, where he denied wrongdoing.
The president has been accused in two other cases, but in both he received a reprieve from Congress, which voted against removing him from office to stand trial. He could still face those charges when he leaves office.
Temer has denied any wrongdoing in the awarding of port contracts and his cabinet secretary, Carlos Marun, told journalists the president would clear his name.
"We have complete confidence that with transparent and impartial investigations... the president's complete innocence will ultimately be clear," Marun said. "This does not weaken the government, because President Temer has nothing to do with it."
Dozens of powerful politicians have fallen into the "Car Wash" (Lava Jato) anti-graft net following revelations that Brazil's leaders were systematically giving contracts with state-controlled enterprises in exchange for massive bribes.