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Brazil's ex-Speaker Cunha expelled from Congress over Swiss bank accounts

Eduardo Cunha Image copyright Reuters

The powerful former speaker of the lower house of the Brazilian Congress, Eduardo Cunha, has lost his seat after an overwhelming vote by fellow members of Congress to eject him.

Mr Cunha had denied having millions of dollars hidden in Swiss bank accounts – said to be the proceeds of corruption.

But information from Swiss authorities proved the existence of the accounts.

Mr Cunha – seen as the architect of former president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment – could now face arrest.

Ms Rousseff was removed last month for moving funds between government budgets, which is illegal under Brazilian law.

During a bitter debate on Monday, Mr Cunha accused her supporters of seeking revenge against him.

The vote was seen as critical for the credibility of Congress and all eyes will now be on what Mr Cunha does next, the BBC’s Wyre Davies in Brazil says.

He is also known as the “keeper of secrets” in Congress, where dozens of other politicians are also accused of fraud and has suggested he may cooperate with investigators into a wide ranging corruption scandal.

Swiss information

Mr Cunha is also being investigated by the Supreme Court for allegedly taking millions of dollars in bribes to secure contracts with state oil giant, Petrobras.

Petrobras is at the centre of a massive kickbacks scandal which cost the company $2bn (£1.5bn) and has led to the arrest of dozens of lawmakers and top businessmen.

At least three businessmen have said under interrogation that they paid bribes to Mr Cunha, which they deposited in his overseas accounts.

Along with his seat he has lost the partial immunity from prosecution that comes with being an elected representative.

In March 2015 Mr Cunha stated that he did not have “any type of account anywhere that is not declared on my income tax”.

But authorities in Switzerland later gave information to a corruption inquiry in Brazil stating that Mr Cunha and his wife, Claudia Cruz, were beneficiaries of secret accounts worth about $5m (£3.7m).


Timeline:

  • August 2015: Mr Cunha is charged with taking bribes – he denies the allegations
  • May 2016: He is suspended as Speaker after a request by the country’s attorney general
  • June: An ethics committee votes in favour of stripping him of his seat. The Supreme Court then accepts corruption charges including money laundering and illegal currency dealing
  • July: He resigns as speaker, saying he is “paying a high price” for having spearheaded the impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff
  • September: Congress votes overwhelmingly to expel him

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