Former Brazilian Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha was arrested Wednesday on charges of taking millions of dollars in bribes from contractors with the oil company Petrobras.
Judge Sergio Moro, who is leading the investigation into a multi-million-dollar kickback scheme at the state-owned oil corporation, ordered the arrest. Moro has become a major public figure in Brazil, drawing both praise and scrutiny for making public a government wiretap showing former presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva conspiring to protect the latter from an investigation into his role at Petrobras.
Cunha was the mastermind behind the impeachment process against Rousseff, triggered by misrepresentations of public funds but gaining popularity in light of the Petrobras charges. He was removed from the Brazilian Congress in September.
The Federal Public Ministry said that Cunha had intentionally hindered the investigation, hurt the public, and ignored the law. The government also froze $220 million in bank assets as part of the detention.
According to Al Jazeera, “Moro ordered Cunha’s detention, citing risks to ‘public order, as well as a concrete possibility of flight given his access to hidden resources abroad, as well as double nationality.'”
Before Cunha was arrested in Brasilia, police attempted to arrest him at his home in Barra da Tijuca, in the West area of Rio Wednesday morning. When he was not found there, police then went to an apartment in Brasilia where Cunha also lived. Knowing this was coming, Cunha has a suitcase ready to go for his impending arrest.
Cunha was a central figure in the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.
Cunha’s arrest warrant had been issued for four months, but no new evidence had been presented during that time.
O Globo News agency reported that “Prosecutors justified the request [to arrest him] by stating that Cunha has hidden funds abroad at their disposal, in addition to his dual Brazilian and Italian nationality.”