Brazil's ex-speaker Eduardo Cuhna arrested in bribery investigation

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Oct. 20, 2016 at 9:19 AM
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BRASILIA, Brazil, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Eduardo Cuhna, former speaker of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, was arrested Wednesday over accusations he received $5 million in bribes as part of the nationwide Petrobras corruption scandal.

Cuhna was arrested in Brasilia and was transferred to the southern city of Curitiba. Brazilian federal judge Sergio Moro, who is leading the corruption investigation, said he ordered Cuhna's arrest because of the "real possibility" he could flee due to hidden assets abroad, O Globo reports.

Cuhna has dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship, which was also considered in Moro's ruling. Brazilian media report at least three businessmen told authorities they paid bribes to Cuhna by depositing funds into his overseas accounts in exchange for immunity.

In September, Cuhna, a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party who was a deputy for Rio de Janeiro, was expelled from his congressional post by an overwhelming vote of 450-10 for lying about suspicious Swiss bank accounts.

During testimony in 2015, Cuhna said he did not have "any type of account anywhere that is not declared on my income tax." Though he denied having the accounts, Swiss authorities later revealed to a Brazilian corruption inquiry that Cuhna and his wife Claudia Cruz had about $5 million in Swiss bank accounts.

Cuhna resigned in July as the speaker of the lower house -- which in Brazil is called the Chamber of Deputies -- after being suspended in May. He is considered the architect of the effort to remove former President Dilma Rousseff from the presidency through impeachment.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, is also facing corruption charges related to the Petrobras bribery scandal.

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