In Multipolarity

By Matt Sandy, The Guardian, Oct 19, 2016

If Eduardo Cunha makes a plea bargain with prosecutors telling all, that would likely end the coup government that ousted elected president Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil coup mastermind  Eduardo Cunha arrested for corruption in Oct 2016 after his expulsion from Brazil  legislature one month earlier (photo by Eraldo Peres, AP)

Brazil coup mastermind Eduardo Cunha arrested for corruption in Oct 2016 after his expulsion from Brazil legislature one month earlier (photo by Eraldo Peres, AP)

RIO DE JANEIRO – Eduardo Cunha, the Brazilian politician who orchestrated the impeachment of the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, has been arrested on corruption charges. Federal police detained the former speaker of the lower house in Brasilia on Wednesday and executed a search warrant at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

Compared by some to Frank Underwood from ‘House of Cards’ television program, Cunha also has been accused of taking up to 116.5m reais ($37m) in bribes as part of the Operation Car Wash investigation into mammoth corruption at state oil giant Petrobras.

The arrest was ordered by federal judge Sergio Moro, who has gained celebrity in Brazil by leading that probe, which has ensnared dozens of leading politicians. Moro has been investigating Cunha for months but could only arrest him after he was expelled from the chamber of deputies last month, and lost his parliamentary immunity.

“[His freedom] posed a risk to the investigation of the case, to public order, as well as the concrete possibility of that he would flee due to the availability of hidden funds abroad, in addition to his dual nationality (Cunha is Italian and Brazilian),” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The statement quoted Moro, who said: “Until there is full traceability of money, there is a greater risk that he will flee, since the accused could use illegal funds to facilitate his escape and refuge abroad.”

The court order, signed by Moro on Tuesday, allows for his indefinite detention while the investigation continues. However, he can appeal to the supreme court to be freed.

The reviled evangelical politician, 58, played a crucial role in the impeachment of Rousseff in August. As the speaker of the chamber of deputies, he initiated proceedings against her. Rousseff, who was not accused of personally enriching herself, has claimed that Cunha and his allies were motivated by her refusal to shutdown Operation Car Wash.

Rousseff’s successor, and her former vice-president, Michel Temer is of the same Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) party as Cunha but has distanced himself. Cunha, who built his powerbase on knowing the secrets of others, is said to be writing a book.

After his removal from congress by 450 votes to 10, he was banned from politics for eight years, a punishment more severe than that handed to Rousseff, who was ejected from office but – in an unprecedented move – was allowed to keep her political rights.

Cunha is now being investigated for a wide range of allegations, including taking bribes relating to Petrobras and Caixa Economica Federal, a state bank. He is said to have stashed $2.3m in Swiss bank accounts but prosecutors believe that is a fraction of the total.

Credit card statements, leaked by prosecutors, showed Cunha and his family spent out $40,000 on a nine-day family holiday in Miami at the end of 2013, then went on shopping and restaurant sprees in Paris, New York and Zurich. Cunha and his wife are also said to own a fleet of eight luxury cars, including a Porsche, which were registered under the name of and C3 Productions.

He originally rose to notoriety as a radio host after converting to the Assembly of God, one of Brazil’s biggest evangelical churches. He was elected to congress in 2003 and became speaker in 2015. He is consistently one of the most disliked politicians in Brazil and “Cunha out” has become a popular slogan, summing up widespread disgust at the political class.

Opposition politicians predicted if Cunha made a plea bargain with prosecutors, the government could fall. “Eduardo Cunha has just been arrested,” Lindbergh Farias of Rousseff’s Workers’ party told the senate. “And I sincerely hope he makes a deal. If he makes a deal, the government of Michel Temer will not last a day.”

Brazil impeachment leader Eduardo Cunha arrested, detained on corruption charges

By Stephanie Nolen, The Globe and Mail, Oct 19, 2016

Eduardo Cunha, the influential Brazilian politician who spearheaded the ouster of former president Dilma Rousseff and who for years seemed untouchable, has been arrested and jailed on corruption charges.

Mr. Cunha, who stands accused of salting away millions of dollars in bribes in foreign bank accounts, is emblematic of the traditional power brokers here, a wealthy leader of the largest political party who cut deals with all parties as he rose to lead the lower house of Congress.

He is the most powerful political figure to be jailed in the country’s reckoning with the corrupt practices that riddle its politics and major business deals.

Federal prosecutors say Mr. Cunha took $5-million (U.S.) in bribes from a firm that won contracts with the state oil company, Petrobras, and that he accepted bribes in connection with property developments in central Rio De Janeiro, for himself and for other members of his party.

Mr. Cunha denies all of the allegations and said in a statement released by his lawyers that his arrest was “absurd,” that prosecutors have no grounds and he would contest it.

In September, Mr. Cunha was forced out of his position as the speaker of the lower house and expelled from Congress, from which he orchestrated the impeachment of Ms. Rousseff a month before. When he lost his political mandate, he also lost the shield of legal protections that keep sitting Brazilian politicians from being tried anywhere but by the country’s Supreme Court.

Stripped of this shield, he became a target for Sergio Moro, the federal court judge in the central Brazilian city of Curitiba who oversees the sprawling investigation into government graft known as Lava Jato, or Car Wash.

“With the end of the ‘symbol of impunity’ that Cunha represented, there are no more guarantees: Anyone can be investigated, tried and imprisoned,” said Ricardo Wahrendorff Caldas, a professor of political science at the University of Brasilia. “There is no more security, even for politicians.”

Mr. Cunha was arrested in the capital, Brasilia, and has been transferred to the southern city of Curitiba. His wife and daughter are also under investigation in Lava Jato; police searched the family home in Rio on Wednesday.

Mr. Moro said he had ordered the arrest because “until there is full traceability of money, there is a greater risk that he will flee, since the accused could use illegal funds to facilitate his escape and taking of refuge abroad.” He added that the fact that Mr. Cunha has dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship increased the risk of him trying to evade justice, while his connections created the risk he might hamper investigations.

Mr. Cunha’s detention is indefinite, in theory until the conclusion of a trial, although it is so rare for someone this powerful to be jailed that many Brazilians fully expect that his legal team will have him released imminently.

Rafael Faria, a member of the criminal policy committee of the Brazilian Bar Association, said the grounds for arrest are dubious, given that Mr. Cunha is a high-profile figure who would be unable to flee the country unnoticed. He called it a political move rather than a legal one, and said the main goal of the indefinite detention was to try to force Mr. Cunha to become a state witness and provide evidence about other influential people.

As he was expelled from Congress, Mr. Cunha publicly vowed to expose the secrets of those who turned against him, saying he had information that would rock the political establishment. He promised a tell-all book, on sale by Christmas.

The columnist Natuza Nery wrote in Folha de Sao Paulo on Wednesday that Mr. Cunha may well open up his “master file” on the inner workings of Brasilia, even without a deal on sentence reduction.

“He’s not the type to go to the gallows alone,” she wrote.

But she quoted an investigator who said he would have to “spit blood” (that is, provide extremely valuable information) in order to get himself off the hook and noted that many prosecutors are uncomfortable with the idea of making “a deal with a devil.” Mr. Cunha is perhaps the most widely disliked figure in Brazilian politics.

Dozens of senior political figures and influential business people are under investigation in the Lava Jato probe, which centres on the state energy firm Petrobras. At least three business people have said in plea bargain testimony that they paid bribes into Mr. Cunha’s overseas accounts. In 2015, he vehemently denied to Congress that he had any such accounts. Swiss authorities then gave Brazilian prosecutors evidence that he and his wife, Claudia Cruz, held secret accounts containing $5-million there.

Prof. Caldas predicted that Mr. Cunha would try to cut a deal in order to protect his wife from jail time. “She is his weakness,” he said.

Ms. Rousseff and her supporters maintained throughout the impeachment process that Mr. Cunha was targeting her as a vendetta because she had refused to stop the corruption investigators from probing his affairs. He was a senior leader in the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which was Ms. Rousseff’s key coalition ally.

Ms. Rousseff was replaced in office by her former vice-president, Michel Temer, also of the PMDB, who was once a close ally of Mr. Cunha’s. Many Brazilians anticipate that Mr. Cunha may reveal information on corrupt practices by Mr. Temer, who is also unpopular and also under investigation in connection with Lava Jato. The president cut short a trip to Japan on Wednesday and headed for Brasilia.

With a report from Elisangela Mendonca

Related reading:
Brazil’s President Michel Temer tells Wall Street crowd Rousseff was impeached for refusing his economic agenda, by Inacio Vieira, The Intercept, Sept 23 2016

Brazilian President Michel Temer let an open secret become explicitly clear during a speech to business and foreign policy leaders yesterday in New York. The country’s elected and now-removed President, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached because of her position on economic policy, rather than any alleged wrongdoing on her part, her installed successor admitted. Temer’s stunning, and seemingly unscripted, acknowledgement will surely bolster the view of impeachment opponents that Dilma’s removal was a “parliamentary coup d’etat”…


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