Brazil: The Man Who Wants to Impeach Rousseff Named in Panama Papers
Brazilian lawmaker Eduardo Cunha, who claims he wants to root out corruption, is again exposed as a criminal.
4 April, 2016
Brazilian House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is leading a fierce attempt to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, has been implicated in the Panama Papers for receiving bribes linked to offshore companies involved in the country’s Petrobras state oil scandal, underlining the hypocrisy of the campaign against Rousseff in the noble name of rooting out corruption.
Cunha, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party or PMDB that recently broke with Rousseff's Workers' Party, was paid bribes allegedly funded by Portuguese business mogul Idalecio de Castro Rodrigues de Oliveira. According to the leaks, Oliveira owned a conglomerate of 14 companies registered in the British Virgin Islands from 2003 to 2011.
Oliveira’s Lusitania Group conglomerate also entered into a partnership with Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, at the center of massive corruption probes in Brazil, specifically what’s known as the Lava Jato or Car Wash scandal. A dozen of the 14 companies in his offshore business empire were incorporated “just months before his agreement with Petrobras.”
Oliveira was linked to the Lava Jato scandal last October, after Brazilian prosecutors launched an investigation into the operation in 2014.
In 2011, “Oliveira wired US$10 million to a Swiss bank account held by Joao Augusto Rezende Henriques, a lobbyist for Brazilian party PMDB,” according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, involved in reporting the Panama Papers. Shortly after, “Rezende Henriques wired US$1.5 million to a Swiss bank account controlled by Eduardo Cunha,” ICIJ continued.
Cunha, facing possible impeachment over his involvement in the Petrobras scandal, is accused of receiving US$5 million in kickbacks between 2006 and 2012 and hiding the earnings in Swiss bank accounts. The PMDB lawmaker has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and “vehemently denies” the allegations revealed by the Panama Papers, ICIJ reported.
Meanwhile, Cunha, a self-proclaimed enemy of Dilma Rousseff, has been the key figure in leading an attempt to impeach the president in a shaky bid to fight corruption.
He and other political opponents have latched on widespread corruption scandals to try to boot Rousseff from power as frustration among the country’s wealthy elite and conservative political factions grows over the inability to beat the PT at the ballot box.
But the Panama Papers have further outed Cunha and his PMDB allies for their questionable crusade against government fraud, since he and his party are more deeply implicated in dirty money. The leak comes as Rousseff’s defense is set to make its final arguments on Monday in attempt to block the impeachment process against her from moving forward.
At least 57 officials implicated in the Petrobras scandal opened over 100 offshore companies in tax havens through Mossack Fonseca, the Panama Papers reveal. Among them is Joao José Pereira de Lyra, Brazil’s richest former lawmaker with a fortune of about US140 million who served as a lawmaker and senator multiple times over the years.
In what is being described as the largest leak in journalistic history, the Panama Papers are a set of over 11.5 million documents dated back to the late 1970’s that reveal how the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca helped world leaders, wealthy elites, and celebrities hide assets in shell companies and offshore tax havens.
The initial leak is set to be followed by further disclosures, including the publication of a full list of more than 200,000 offshore companies.