By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the mega-corruption investigation Operação Lava Jato (Operation Carwash) continues, yesterday the Brazil Supreme Court (STF) minister Teori Zavascki approved opening two inquiries against the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ). The new charges were entered into court last week, citing crimes of corruption and money laundering.
With the decision, Cunha now faces a total of four inquiries and criminal proceedings in the STF to-date. On Friday (April 22nd), the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Rodrigo Janot, said Eduardo Cunha is the target of six charges related to the Lava Jato case.
Last month, the STF opened criminal proceedings against Cunha with evidence he received a US$5 million bribe for a contract from Petrobras. The charges were announced almost a year ago, when Júlio Camargo, an executive of oil and gas sector company Toyo Setal, the first company to cooperate in the Lava Jato investigation against Petrobras, gave testimony.
In another charge, Cunha is suspected of keeping secret accounts abroad. According to the Attorney General’s Office, the deputy received more than R$5 million in kickbacks to facilitate the purchase of Benin field by Petrobras. His wife, Cláudia Cruz, and daughter Denielle Cunha are also suspected of benefiting from the money held in these accounts.
The new charges involve receiving bribes to release FGTS money to the Porto Maravilha project in Rio, an R$8 billion urban revitalization effort ahead of the 2016 Olympics. The release would have been made possible by Fabio Cleto, a vice-president of the Caixa Econômica Federal bank. In defense, lawyer Antonio Fernando de Souza said the complaint filed by federal prosecutors against the deputy “did not meet the conditions to be admitted.”
The Lava Jato investigation was started in 2009 by federal judge Sergio Moro, in Curitiba, when Moro started to investigate the financial operations of black market money dealer, Alberto Yousseff. Youssef, who has been identified as the main character in the corruption and money laundering scandal involving Petrobras contracts, was arrested in March 2014 by the Federal Police in Curitiba.
The charges against Cunha are set in the context of his leading the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, and both sides argue the proceedings are in retaliation to one another. In early May, the House will vote if the impeachment will continue, if approved Rousseff could be immediately removed from office for 180 days.