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Mogul confesses to bribing Brazil’s president

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Mogul confesses to bribing Brazil's president

Brasilia, May 20 : An owner of Brazil-based global meat-packing giant JBS on Friday confessed that the group had paid bribes to Brazilian President Michel Temer since 2010.

Joesley Batista made the confession to prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony related to the scandal surrounding JBS, which has been investigated for alleged bribes paid to meat inspectors and purportedly irregular loans from state development bank BNDES to its holding company, J&F Investimentos.

The documents released by the nation’s highest court further ratchet up pressure on Temer, who was rocked earlier this week by allegations he encouraged the payment of hush money to a former top lawmaker — and potential government witness — convicted earlier this year of graft, Efe reported.

Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin, who is overseeing cases related to the investigation of a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras, on Thursday approved an investigation into Temer based on the totality of Batista’s confession.

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Joesley Batista

The most explosive evidence are audio tapes, which Batista secretly recorded during a meeting with the president in Brasilia in March.

On the tapes, the president can be heard apparently recommending that the JBS chairman maintain the flow of money to the former speaker of Brazil’s lower house, the imprisoned Eduardo Cunha, to buy his silence.

Cunha was convicted in March of offenses that included receiving bribes in connection with a contract Petrobras signed in the African nation of Benin.

On the tapes, released to the media, Batista says that he is looking to have his company receive favours from government ministries, that he is in contact with prosecutors who are informing him about investigations and that he is bribing Cunha to keep him from entering into a plea-bargain arrangement.

Temer, for his part, either murmurs apparent approval or simply listens without making any comment, behaviour that legal analysts have interpreted as explicit support for the unlawful actions.

The tapes have led to calls for Temer’s resignation, even from within the ruling coalition his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) leads, while the documents released on Friday by the Supreme Court could further damage the already highly unpopular president.

Temer could be removed from office by different means, including via an impeachment process or a separate one whereby the lower house votes to put him on trial before the Supreme Court.

In one document catalogued as “Attachment 9,” Batista said that between 2010 and 2011 he made monthly payments of 100,000 reais ($29,500 at the current exchange rate) in exchange for “favours” from the Agriculture Ministry.

He also said he would provide evidence to back up the allegations.

The allegations of obstruction of justice against Temer caused Brazil’s stock market to tumble on Thursday, with some analysts saying the president’s woes would make it difficult to continue his austerity drive, including an overhaul of Brazil’s pension system.

Temer, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and says he can guarantee the tapes provide no proof of guilt, took over the presidency last year when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was forced to step aside and face an impeachment trial for allegedly violating budget laws.

Temer had been Rousseff’s vice president.

Rousseff, whose Workers’ Party (PT) had governed Brazil since 2003, was eventually ousted from office last year in what she termed a coup.

In the documents released by the Supreme Court, JBS executives also said they paid a total of $80 million to Rousseff and her political mentor and predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The plea-bargain testimony indicates the illegal payments were made to facilitate the company’s access to loans from BNDES that date back to 2005.

Lula, who already is facing five corruption trials, including ones related to the Petrobras scheme, has denied any wrongdoing and previously said that anyone who attacks the integrity of BNDES has no idea of the seriousness of that institution.

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Afghanistan: Blast near office of ‘Save The Children’ aid group in Jalalabad

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Afghan, Jan 25: A blast occurred near office of ‘Save The Children’ aid group in the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad – government official said on Wednesday.

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6.1-magnitude quake hits Jakarta

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Jakarta, Jan 23: An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale jolted the Indonesian capital on Tuesday, damaging dozens of houses and sending people fleeing into the streets in panic.

The earthquake struck around 1.34 p.m. about 100 miles southwest of Jakarta, with its epicentre in the Indian Ocean. There were no immediate reports of casualties, Efe news reported.

Reports said that buildings in the capital shook for several seconds, with some being evacuated. In Lebak district of Banten province, as many as 116 houses were damaged after the quake, an official of the disaster management agency said.

A total of 13 houses were damaged in Serang district of Banten province and four others in West Java province.

Around Jakarta, panicky Indonesians fled schools, office buildings and other high-rises, the New York Times reported.

“It felt like a giant rock had dropped either in the hallway or just outside the building,” said Marcoen Stoop, a Belgian businessman who lives on the 35th floor of an apartment building in Jakarta.

“Then, the building started swaying and the swaying increased steadily,” he added, saying the rocking lasted less than a minute.

In 2004, a powerful quake in the northern part of Sumatra Island triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed around 230,000 people in a dozen countries, mostly in Indonesia.

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Powerful 8.2 magnitude Earth Quake jolts Alaska

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New Delhi, Jan 23: A powerful earthquake of 8.2 magnitude shook the coast of Alaska on Tuesday. Following this tsunami warning has been issued across the United States.

The quake hit 300 km southeast of Kodiak at a depth of 10 km at 12.21 a.m., the US Geological Survey said.

The US National Tsunami Warning Centre issued a tsunami alert for areas that included the coast of Alaska to British Columbia and the border with Washington State, and a tsunami watch all the way down to the border of Mexico and the coast of Hawaii, the New York Times reported.

Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, issued an extreme warning, saying there was “extraordinary threat to life or property”.

The alert told people to seek refuge on higher grounds in affected areas. Authorities said that based on the preliminary earthquake parameters, “widespread hazardous tsunami waves were possible”.

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