Brazil's former lower house speaker Cunha arrested

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Brazil's former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha was arrested in Brasília on Wednesday.

Lava Jato judge Sérgio Moro ordered the preventative arrest warrant for the impeached congressman on accusations of corruption, according to local media. The courts have also frozen 221mn reais (US$70mn) of Cunha's assets, reported daily Estado de São Paulo.

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When requesting he be arrested, prosecutors did not present any new evidence to add to what has already been made public in previous investigations. They maintained that his freedom represents a risk to the federal police's ability to investigate the case and to public order. They also voiced their concern that he was a flight risk because of the chance of Cunha having hidden funds abroad and his dual Brazilian-Italian citizenship.

Before taking the former lower house speaker into police custody at his apartment in Brasília, the federal police tried to arrest him at his home in Rio Janeiro. When he was found to be in the capital, Cunha already had a suitcase ready in preparation for a possible arrest.

He was taken to a federal police hangar and was expected to be flown to Curitiba, where the Lava Jato cases are being tried.

Cunha was impeached on September 12 in a landslide congressional vote, making him ineligible to run for office until January 2027.

The former lower house speaker, who led the charge to impeach former President Dilma Rousseff, is currently facing graft allegations that he is one of the main players in the corruption scheme at state-run oil giant Petrobras known as Lava Jato. He is accused of taking as much as US$40mn in bribes and then laundering the money through an evangelical church.

When Cunha was stripped of his seat in congress, he also lost the legal privileges that protect federal legislators from going to prison.