A special commission of the Brazilian Congress’ lower house has voted in favor of recommending criminal charges against President-elect Jair Bolsonaro in a case involving a fake university founded by the politician and former Army captain during his time in office.
The 23-to-14 vote has two preliminary weeks to consider the report before the full House gives its recommendation, The Guardian reported. If confirmed, Bolsonaro would be the first elected Brazilian president to face prosecution in a judicial case.
The federal prosecutor’s office asked the congress committee to recommend charges against Bolsonaro last month on allegations that he had accepted illegal contributions to his then-right-wing political party, the Social Christian Party, and then set up a fake university that received money from a shady company.
If the recommendation to the full House is approved, Bolsonaro would face a court case on charges of corruption, money laundering and forming a criminal group. He would also be accused of lying in his application for the bank account allegedly used to give his party the money.
Rep. Mario Rampulla voted in favor of the motion, which came days after Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister Mendonça Lima attempted to remove the federal prosecutor from the case.
Other members of the committee claimed to have received pressure from the government. Chief of Staff Raffaela Fonseca was seen in a recording discussing the commission vote with Rappulic, who represents Justice Minister Mendonça Lima on the commission.
“I received proof that government pressure was coming,” Rappulic said. “It seemed to me that it was overwhelming. I was forced to vote no.”
According to El Mundo, police are investigating Rappulic’s connections to the government, although he denied having been pressured to vote against the recommendation.
“Yes, I am very confident in the judgment,” Rappulic said. “The congressman Favio Carnioli brought me down this path.”
Rappulic was harshly critical of the justice minister, blaming her for what he called an “orchestrated campaign” to discredit Bolsonaro.
“And it appears as if they had the prosecutors concerned, prosecutors from the Comptroller’s Office who were in charge of the investigation, but they have no stand from them to be president of the commission,” he said.