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Brazilian Judge Authorizes Preliminary Probe of Allegations Pointing to Temer

A demonstrator shouts slogans against Brazil's President Michel Temer during a protest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sept. 22, 2016.

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has authorized a preliminary investigation into allegations from former Transpetro head Sergio Machado that President Michel Temer illegally solicited campaign money in 2012.

Machado, who secured a plea deal after being implicated in the widely publicized Lava Jato scandal, said in court that Temer had asked for donations to benefit Sao Paulo's mayoral campaign for Gabriel Chalita.

Transpetro is a subsidiary of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, also known as Petrobras, the state-run oil company at the center of a sprawling political kickback scheme.

Judge Teori Zavascki on Friday referred the case to Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, who should determine whether to open a case and formally investigate the president and other politicians based on findings in the preliminary probe.

Local media said Temer had denied any accusation he requested money for the campaign of Chalita, who was then a member of the president's political party, PMDB.

Kickback alleged

In his testimony, Machado said the campaign contribution was made legally by the engineering group Queiroz Galvao but resulted from a kickback on contracts with Petrobras.

According to Brazilian news site G1, Machado's plea deal includes the return of approximately $23 million to public coffers and home detention for three years. Machado would be allowed to receive visits only from lawyers, medical professionals, and 27 close relatives and friends.

Temer's press office would not comment on the case.

Temer took over the country's leadership almost a month ago after the Brazilian Senate voted to remove Dilma Rousseff from the presidency for practicing pedaladas fiscais — the practice of using public money to fund state or federal social programs without the approval of Congress.

According to various reports, independent auditors did not find Rousseff involved in breaking fiscal responsibility laws. But many of those who voted for her impeachment are being investigated. Those senators deny any wrongdoing.