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Brazil lower house ousts suspended deputy Eduardo Cunha

By 450 votes in favor and ten against, the former speaker was punished

Published in 13/09/2016 - 09:54

By Luciano Nascimento reports from Agência Brasil Brasília

Brasília - O plenário da Câmara dos Deputados aprovou por 450 a favor, 10 contra e 9 abstenções a cassação do mandato do deputado afastado Eduardo Cunha (Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

Brasília - With his ouster, Cunha will be banned from political office for eight years plus the remainder of his term in the current legislature.Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil

The Chamber of Deputies ousted suspended Deputy Eduardo Cunha, former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, by 450 votes in favor, 10 against, and 9 abstentions on Monday (Sept. 12). The move was the culmination of a lengthy lower house misconduct case that lasted for 11 months, and has now put an end to the term of one of Brazil's most controversial politicians in recent years. With his ouster, Cunha will be banned from political office for eight years, plus the remainder of his term in the current legislature.

The ethical misconduct case filed against Cunha at the lower house was motivated by his lying during testimony at a Congressional Committee of Investigation on the Petrobras corruption scandal. He denied having secret accounts in Swiss banks through which he allegedly received kickback money from the scandal.

Cunha's defense attorney, Marcelo Nobre, claimed his client was being persecuted, arguing that the report recommending his ouster had failed to present tangible evidence of the offshore accounts. Cunha said the case against him was revenge. “I'm paying the price for leading the impeachment case [against former president Dilma Rousseff],” he said.

Cunha's allies still tried one last-ditch maneuver during the session, calling on the house to approve a draft resolution that could result in a far more lenient punishment for the deputy—the suspension of his term. But the move was rejected by Speaker Rodrigo Maia, who ordered the session to proceed to the deputies' speeches.

Brasília - Eduardo Cunha faz sua defesa no plenário da Câmara dos Deputados antes de iniciar a votação de sua cassação (Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

Eduardo Cunha Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil

After four of them had spoken—two supporting Cunha's ouster and two opposing it—deputies passed a motion to end the debate. During the vote, Cunha was talking to deputies in front of the presiding officers.

Controversies

Cunha was elected the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies in February 2015. In the period he led the house, he was accused of being a lobbyist in the Petrobras scandal and was a fierce nemesis of former president Rousseff's administration. Because of a proceeding he faced at the Board of Ethics, Cunha was suspended from his office as both a member of parliament and speaker of the lower house by the Supreme Court in May.

Throughout the ethics case, Cunha denied being the owner of alleged offshore accounts, arguing that he merely owned trust funds that he did not control. He maintained the funds came from commercial and financial transactions including sales of canned meat to African countries.

Now that he has been permanently removed, he has lost his special jurisdiction privileges as a member of Congress, and the two cases pending against him before the Supreme Court will be remanded to a Federal Court in Paraná to be presided over by Sérgio Moro, the judge in charge of the investigation into the Petrobras scandal, known as Operation Car Wash.

Cunha was first charged by the Prosecutor-General's Office in August 2015, accused of bribery and money laundering for receiving $5 million in kickbacks over Petrobras drillship contracts.

Further charges were filed when investigators found he had received kickbacks through secret accounts in Switzerland. According to investigators, Cunha was paid 1.3 million Swiss francs for his role in the purchase of an oil field off the Benin coast by Petrobras in 2011. His charges include bribery, money laundering, tax evasion and forgery for electoral purposes.

About to turn 58, Cunha, who was for almost two years one of the highest-profile politicians in Brazil, could disappear from the political scene with his eight-year ban.


Translated by Mayra Borges


Fonte: Brazil lower house ousts suspended deputy Eduardo Cunha
Edition: Fábio Massalli / Augusto Queiroz

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