The central figure behind the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has been arrested on corruption charges.
The office of Judge Sergio Moro and police officials said on Wednesday that former Congressman Eduardo Cunha, accused of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes from contractors with the oil company Petrobras, has been arrested.
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“We can confirm that [Cunha] was detained in Brasilia,” a police spokesman told AFP news agency.
He was arrested on an order issued by Judge Sergio Moro, who has led the nationwide investigation into the corruption scandal.
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”, said the justice department for Parana state, where Moro’s operation is headquartered in the city of Curitiba.
Cunha, 58, denied all charges.
Brazil: Cunha accused of using Swiss accounts to launder money and $40m in bribes while president of lower house of congress. He denies
— Gabriel Elizondo (@elizondogabriel) October 19, 2016
Cunha began the process of impeaching Rousseff in December when he was speaker of the lower house of Congress. The process led to a vote to remove her from office in August.
Two weeks later Cunha was removed from his position as speaker of the house by a vote of 450-10.
His downfall signals the Petrobras corruption probe headed by Moro is continuing to send shockwaves through Brazilian politics.
Dozens of politicians and executives have already been charged with or convicted of involvement in the embezzlement and bribery scheme.
Rousseff’s presidential predecessor and leftist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva faces three corruption-related court cases and speculation is rife that he could also be placed in pre-trial detention.
Rousseff’s replacement in the presidency, former Cunha ally Michel Temer, has been battling allegations that he intends to weaken the Petrobras probe.
Several of his choices for ministerial posts have been accused of taking part in the embezzlement scheme.