By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Former Brazilian Chamber of Deputies president, Eduardo Cunha, has been sentenced to fifteen years and four months in prison for crimes of passive corruption, money laundering and evasion of foreign currency as well a a fine of more than R$250,000.
“The responsibility of a federal Congressman is enormous, and therefore also his guilt when he practices crimes. There can be no more serious offense than one who betrays the congressional mandate and the sacred trust that the people place in it to gain their own,” said federal judge Sérgio Moro, one of the leading figures investigating Brazil’s mega corruption scandal, Lava Jato (Carwash).
The complaint filed by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) accused Cunha of receiving more than $1.3 million Swiss francs in bribes for Petrobras’ exploration contracts in oil fields in Benin, Africa. The contracts, according to the indictment, cost the government US$77.5 million.
The conviction also prevents Cunha from holding public office and accepting positions of director, board member or management of legal entities for the next thirty years.
With the conviction there is speculation that Cunha may now accept a plea-bargaining agreement with prosecutors. According to local media the former leader of the Lower House may know details about corruption deals which could lead to another scandal in the Lava Jato investigations.
“We all know he knows a lot, and he has kept a lot of things, waiting for an acquittal, a softer sentence,” Congressional representative Julio Delgado was quoted by government news sources as saying.
Representative Alessandro Molon agrees with his colleague, “I hope he tells him everything he knows, so that all those who committed crimes are also held accountable, and we can clean Parliament and start a new era.”
For Molon, the sentence may generate fear among the politicians cited in the Lava Jato process. “For those who have committed crimes and who fear for their accountability, this will increase concern and will likely increase the likelihood of a Chamber reaction against measures that lead to the conviction of lawmakers and politicians.”
Adding, “That is why it is very important that society remains vigilant and that people here continue to fight to avoid any setbacks, any measures of sabotage or retaliation for Lava Jato investigations.”
Eduardo Cunha has been imprisoned in Curitiba since October 2016.