Swiss open probe against Brazilian lawmaker

Eduardo Cunha denies charges of taking millions in bribes linked to a huge corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras Keystone

Switzerland has opened criminal proceedings against Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of Brazil's lower house of Congress, for suspected money laundering and seized assets belonging to him, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has confirmed. 

This content was published on October 1, 2015 - 11:15 with agencies

The Attorney General’s Office said it had opened criminal proceedings against Cunha “on the grounds of suspected money laundering, subsequently extended to passive corruption”, it said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. 

This follows the reception of a “money-laundering report by a Swiss bank” in April 2015. After the opening of the proceedings, assets of Eduardo Cunha were seized, the office added. 

Cunha, one of Brazil's most powerful politicians, was charged in August with taking at least $5 million (CHF 4.9 million) in bribes stemming from a massive graft and kickback scandal at state oil giant Petrobras. He denies having done anything wrong. 

The Swiss Attorney General’s Office said Cunha could not be extradited to Switzerland because of his Brazilian nationality. 

“For this reason the OAG has through the Swiss Federal Office of Justice submitted a request for transferring the ongoing proceedings against Cunha to Brazil with the aim that the issue at stake can be further investigated and judged by the Brazilian judicial authorities,” the office declared.

In a statement on Wednesday night, Brazilian prosecutors announced Swiss prosecutors had turned over evidence gathered in Switzerland against Cunha.

"The information of Switzerland's public prosecutor tells of bank accounts in Cunha's and his relatives' names," the statement from the Brazilian Public Prosecutor's Office said.

Petrobras bribe scandal

Petrobras is estimated to have lost $2 billion over a 10-year period from inflated contracts to companies that then allegedly used the gains to pay off politicians and bribe Petrobras directors.

Cunha was accused of receiving payoffs relating to contracts to build two drilling vessels for Petrobras.

The speaker, who has refused to resign, has meanwhile become a force behind calls for the impeachment of embattled President Dilma Rousseff.

In March 2015, Swiss prosecutors announced they had uncovered over 300 accounts at more than 30 Swiss banks that they suspect were linked to the massive corruption and money-laundering scandal at Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobas.

Switzerland has frozen roughly $400 million in Swiss accounts in their investigation and has begun to return an initial $120 million to Brazilian officials. The beneficiaries of the suspect accounts – which are mostly in the name of companies domiciled in Switzerland – are senior Petrobras executives, suppliers, financial intermediaries, and Brazilian or other foreign companies that allegedly paid bribes, the Attorney General's Office said in a statement.

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