Brazil impeachment leader arrested in corruption probe

2016-10-20 07:54
The president of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha heads to the Senate to launch the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff in the National Congress in Brasilia. (Andressa Anholete, AFP)

The president of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha heads to the Senate to launch the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff in the National Congress in Brasilia. (Andressa Anholete, AFP)

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Rio de Janeiro - The powerful former speaker of Brazil's lower house who spearheaded the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff was arrested Wednesday as part of a sprawling graft probe involving state oil giant Petrobras.

Eduardo Cunha, who until recently was a key ally of new President Michel Temer, is accused of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion related to an oilfield purchase that Petrobras made in 2011 in the west African nation of Benin.

Prosecutors said in a statement that they requested Cunha's detention on the grounds that he represented a threat to the integrity of the investigation and was a flight risk. They also asked for bank accounts he holds totalling around $60m to be frozen.

Cunha was arrested in the capital, Brasilia, and was then put on a plane to the southern city of Curitiba, where Judge Sergio Moro is presiding over many of the Petrobras cases.

The ex-speaker faces multiple ongoing investigations and has been accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes for himself and other politicians.

He denies the allegations.

Cunha was forced to resign as speaker in July. Last month he was stripped of his congressional seat - and also the legal protections against prosecution that come with elected office in Brazil.

Cunha then began publicly criticizing Temer, his erstwhile ally, and Cabinet officials. He announced he would write a tell-all book about the impeachment with the first excerpts to be published in November.

Analysts have said that if Cunha co-operates with prosecutors, he could potentially bring down others in the Petrobras case and create more headaches for the government.

Following the arrest, Temer's office said the president had cut short a trip to Japan and was expected to be back in Brasilia on Friday.

Cunha initiated impeachment proceedings against Rousseff in December when he was speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. That led to a Senate vote to remove her from office in August.

Read more on:    petrobras  |  dilma rousseff  |  brazil

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