Exclusive - Brazil police see no evidence in port bribery case against president

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Ricardo Brito
Brazil's President Michel Temer gestures during a ceremony on a new National ID Card in Brasilia, Brazil, February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Federal Police will likely recommend shelving an investigation into alleged bribery of President Michel Temer in return for extending port concessions last year because it has turned up no evidence, its chief told Reuters on Friday.

Director General Fernando Segovia said in an interview that police found no proof that a decree signed last year by Temer favoured logistics firm Rodrimar SA, which operates services in the Port of Santos, Latin America's busiest container port.

The bribery probe is the only case pending against Temer, who last year avoided standing trial before the Supreme Court when allies in Congress shielded him from charges of corruption, obstruction of justice and organised crime.

"What we see is that the decree itself did not in theory benefit the company. There was no benefit. And there is no word about money being paid," said Segovia, who was appointed by Temer late last year, in the interview at police headquarters.

"Until now, absolutely nothing has appeared that would be the basis for corruption," he said.

The main piece of evidence turned up by the investigation was a wiretap of a conversation between former Congressman Rodrigo Rocha Loures, a close aide to the president, and a presidential legal advisor, Gustavo Rocha.

But the conversation shows the legal advisor saying the decree could not be changed to favour the company and that Temer opposed such a change, Segovia said.

The decree, published in May, extended contracts governing port concessions, benefiting current operators.

Rocha Loures was arrested in June after being filmed with a suitcase of cash received from meatpacker JBS SA as part of a separate investigation, in which he has been charged with corruption, which he denies.

Temer has denied any role in the corruption scandals and answered questions put to him in writing by the police even though he was not legally obliged to do so, his lawyer said.

According to press reports, police asked Temer whether he was offered campaign donations by representatives from the Port of Santos in exchange for fulfilling their demands, among other questions.

Temer took office in 2016 when he succeeded impeached leftist president Dilma Rousseff. Her supporters claim she was ousted in a conspiracy to protect Temer, then vice president, and his political associates from prosecution for corruption.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassú and Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by James Dalgleish)