Powerful Brazilian senator faces corruption trial

Brazilian Senator Aecio Neves gestures during a session of the Federal Senate in Brasilia, on October 18, 2017

Brasília (AFP) – Aecio Neves, a Brazilian senator who narrowly lost the 2014 presidential election, will face trial for corruption and obstruction of justice, Brazil’s top court decided Tuesday.

A panel of Supreme Court justices ruled Neves would be tried for allegedly accepting two million reais ($588,000) from meat industry tycoon Joesley Batista. The money was allegedly paid in return for favorable legislation in Congress.

Neves, from the center-right Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), denies the charges, which stem from Batista’s plea deal with prosecutors. He is also charged with trying to hinder the anti-graft probe.

His trial means that anti-graft charges have now successfully been brought against leading figures from all three major parties in Brazil.

Ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who founded the Workers’ Party, was jailed this month after being convicted of accepting an apartment as a bribe.

Several major figures from the center-right PMDB have also been prosecuted, while President Michel Temer, who is a member of it, faces two corruption charges.

Neves, narrowly beaten to the presidency by Dilma Rousseff from the Workers’ Party, said he and his sister and cousin would be cleared.

“I did nothing wrong. My priority is to present the court with all the facts that show the complete correctness of my and my relatives’ actions,” he said in a statement.

Grandson of a president and a former governor of Minas Gerais state, Neves has long been a heavyweight in Brazilian politics and a leader of opposition to the Workers’ Party.

Brazilian politicians have been under heavy fire from an unprecedented anti-graft campaign led by prosecutors with so-called operation “Car Wash,” which over the last four years has uncovered systemic bribery and embezzlement throughout the political and business elite.