Brazil’s Cunha, Col­lor on graft charges


Brazil’s at­tor­ney gen­eral filed cor­rup­tion charges Thurs­day against the speaker of the lower house of congress and against a cur­rent sen­a­tor who was im­peached while serv­ing as pres­i­dent in the early 1990s.

The At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice said Cham­ber of Deputies speaker Ed­uardo Cunha and Sen. Fer­nando Col­lor took part in the sprawl­ing cor­rup­tion scheme at state-run oil com­pany Petro­bras, which ran for over a decade and in which bil­lions in bribes were al­legedly paid.

Both Cunha and Col­lor told the lo­cal press that they have done noth­ing wrong.

Pros­e­cu­tors said in a state­ment that Cunha is ac­cused of ac­cept­ing US$5 mil­lion in bribes be­tween 2006 and 2012 in con­nec­tion with the con­struc­tion of two Petro­bras drilling ships. He’s charged with cor­rup­tion and with money laun­der­ing.

No de­tails in the case against Col­lor were made public. The pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said that was be­cause it is based on ac­cu­sa­tions from an ac­tive in­for­mant and re­veal­ing de­tails would jeop­ar­dize the con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In the early 1990s, Col­lor be- came Brazil’s first freely elected pres­i­dent in nearly three decades af­ter a long mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, but he re­signed in 1992 af­ter be­ing im­peached by the Se­nate over al­le­ga­tions he re­ceived mil­lions from a slush fund run by his for- mer cam­paign trea­surer.

Un­der Brazil­ian law, charges against fed­eral con­gress­men and other top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials can only be filed and judged by the Supreme Court, which is ex­pected to take years to rule on the cases.

The charges against both men have long been ex­pected in the Petro­bras scheme, which pros­e­cu­tors say in­volved huge bribes to po­lit­i­cally ap­pointed ex­ec­u­tives at the oil com­pany in re­turn for in­flated con­tracts.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege some of the money made its way into cam­paign cof­fers of the gov­ern­ing Work­ers’ Party and its al­lies as well as into the hands of dozens of law­mak­ers who are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff, whose ap­proval rat­ings are in the sin­gle dig­its amid the scan­dal and eco­nomic prob­lems, has not been ac­cused of any wrong­do­ing, although she served as chair­woman of the Petro­bras board dur­ing sev­eral years as the scheme played out.

Rouss­eff, who de­nies any wrong­do­ing, has re­peat­edly said that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will not stop and “will hurt whomever it must hurt,” even as sev­eral mem­bers of her own party and those in her rul­ing coali­tion be­come en­snared.

Thou­sands of Brazil­ians turned out for ral­lies across the coun­try Thurs­day to voice sup­port for the pres­i­dent, but their num­bers were smaller than demon­stra­tions on Sun­day that drew protesters call­ing for Rouss­eff to lose her job.

An­a­lysts were split on what Thurs­day’s charges might mean for Rouss­eff.

Cunha, a mem­ber of the pow­er­ful Demo­cratic Move­ment Party, has for many months played an ob­struc­tion­ist role to Rouss­eff’s ini­tia­tives in congress as she tries to push through aus­ter­ity mea­sures and other bills meant to help pro­pel Brazil’s econ­omy out of the dol­drums. The na­tion’s econ­omy is ex­pected to con­tract 2 per­cent this year and again be in re­ces­sion in 2016.


De­mon­stra­tors hold­ing ban­ners that read in Por­tuguese “Let the rich pay for the cri­sis” and “Stay Dilma,” gather in sup­port of Brazil’s Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thurs­day, Aug. 20.

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