Brazil's 'most powerful politician' Cunha facing arrest

  • 13/09/2016
Eduardo Cunha (Reuters)
Eduardo Cunha (Reuters)

Two weeks after the removal of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil's president, the lower house of congress has expelled the politician who engineered her impeachment for lying about secret bank accounts in Switzerland.

The once powerful former Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who has been charged with corruption by the Supreme Court, was banned from politics for eight years and faces arrest now he has lost his congressional prerogatives.

The chamber voted overwhelmingly 450-10 to strip him of his seat. Nine legislators abstained.

"This shows that Brazil will no longer tolerate a politician who turned congress into a business counter for bribes and favours," said lawmaker Rubens Bueno of the Popular Socialist Party.

Bueno said Cunha took kickbacks from companies and instructed them to donate to the campaigns of his allies.

Brazilian publication Veja just last year referred to Cunha as "Brazil's most powerful politician", as a result of his ability to challenge former president Rousseff.

Cunha's downfall has many politicians worried because he has threatened to bring down others by revealing cases of corruption that could endanger members of the government of Brazil's new President Michel Temer and derail his fiscal reform agenda.

Cunha has warned he could tell all in a plea bargain that could compromise many in a discredited political establishment, where 50 politicians are already under investigation for taking kickbacks in the Petrobras scandal.

In all, about 60 per cent of the 513 lawmakers in Brazil's lower house are under investigation for various allegations, according to watchdog group Transparency Brazil.

Cunha has been charged by the Supreme Court for allegedly taking a $US5 million ($A6.6 million) bribe on a drill ship contract for state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and for having undeclared Swiss bank accounts.

"I did not lie. Where is the proof? Where are the account numbers?" Cunha asked his peers, appearing in the house to repeat his defence argument that his assets were held in trust funds over which he had no control.

An ethics committee report read out to the chamber said the existence of his accounts and assets abroad was fully proven.