By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s former Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, was arrested on Wednesday, October 19th, by federal police accused of corruption in the Lava Jato (Carwash) scandal. Cunha, known for being the politician who pushed forward former President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process forward in Congress, called the arrest “absurd.”
“It is an absurd decision, without any motivation and using the arguments of an injunction extinguished by the Supreme Court,” said the former Speaker in a statement released to the media after his arrest. Cunha said that his lawyers would take “appropriate measures to address this absurd decision.”
Prosecutors argued that the freedom of the former lawmaker represented a “risk to the process proceedings, public order, as well as a concrete possibility of flight due to the availability of hidden funds abroad, in addition to dual nationality.” Cunha holds both Italian and Brazilian citizenships.
Cunha has been accused of receiving R$5 million, which were deposited into Swiss bank accounts and not declared to authorities. The money is allegedly a bribe given to the politician for his influence in the acquisition of an oil field in Benin, Africa, by Petrobras, in 2011.
The arrest warrant was issued by Federal Judge Sergio Moro, widely known in Brazil as one of the main players in the Lava Jato investigations. Moro also ordered the confiscation of eight luxury automobiles owned by Cunha and his family. Among the automobiles confiscated is a Porsche Cayenne registered in the name of Cunha’s wife, Claudia Cruz.
Cunha was transferred from Brasilia to Curitiba where other high-level executives and politicians, accused of involvement in the Lava Jato scheme, are also being held. Authorities told reporters that Cunha would be placed in a cell by himself until further notice.
Meanwhile, in Brasilia the announcement of Cunha’s arrest shook up Congress, with several lawmakers admitting that if Cunha tells federal prosecutors what he knows he could implicate several important politicians, including cabinet members currently in Michel Temer’s government.
“He is a living archive,” Congressional representative Aelton de Freitas was quoted as saying on Wednesday by daily O Globo.
Political analysts say that the recent charges issued against Claudia Cunha may just be the ‘incentive’ the former politician needs to cooperate with authorities. Analysts interviewed in the local media during the past few months have emphasized that those implicated in the mega-corruption scheme often agree to cooperate when prosecutors threaten to file indictments against family members.
In July, under pressure from both allies and critics, Cunha, announced his resignation from the top legislative position in the country’s Lower House. The legislator, however, continued to hold his position as a Congressional representative. In September, however, after a Congressional disciplinary process that lasted eleven months, Cunha was impeached from office.
Shortly after being impeached, Cunha said he had nothing to say to prosecutors because he had done ‘nothing wrong’. He did, however, say he was thinking about writing a book disclosing all the ‘inner works’ of Congress, which to many political analysts sounded as a veiled threat to his colleagues. Now with his arrest and the possible indictment of his wife, he may change his mind.