21 August 2015

Brazilian prosecutors are investigating the speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, for allegedly accepting bribes amounting to $5million for securing contracts with the state oil giant, Petrobras. According to the Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot, Cunha was involved in corruption and money laundering. Attorney General said that Cunha would have to pay $80m in fines and make restitution.

Cunha, denying these allegations, said that they were politically motivated because he had been an outspoken critic of President Dilma Rousseff. Mr. Cunha said that he would not step down from his post as he was elected to the Office by the majority of the house.

Cunha was a member of PMDB which is in Rousseff’s ruling congress coalition. In July he defected and became the major opposition to Rousseff’s centre-left Workers’ Party. Cunha is aiming to contest in the 2018 Presidential election.

In another scenario prosecutors have filed charges against a former President Fernando Collor de Mello who left office in 1992. The charges are in connection with the Petrobras scheme. The details of the charges are not known.

The Supreme Court only has the power to handle cases pertaining to federal politicians. The court confirmed that charges have been filed but did not give any details.

There has been corruption Petrobras for decades. Prosecutors believe that $2billion was taken off as bribes or kickbacks. Although Rousseff herself has not been implicated in the charges, she chaired the Board of Petrobras between 2003 and 2010. Much of the alleged corruption took place during this time frame.

Rousseff’s popularity rating has gone down since she introduced austerity measures to fix the failing economy. There have been anti-government street protests all over Brazil. It would appear that she is making every effort to consolidate her power.

These corruptions charges may be to strengthen her standing in Brazilian politics.