A majority of Supreme Court justices have ruled favorably to filing a criminal case against the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha. Justices Edson Fachin, Luís Roberto Barroso, Marco Aurélio, Cármen Lúcia, and Rosa Weber, as well as the rapporteur, Justice Teori Zavascki, found that there is probable cause to believe that Cunha has taken kickbacks for drillship contracts with Petrobras.
This results in a preliminary result of six of the 11 justices upholding charges against Cunha. The Supreme Court session was adjourned until Thursday (Mar. 3), when the other justices, Dias Toffoli, Gilmar Mendes, Celso de Mello and Ricardo Lewandowski will announce their votes.
Justice Zavascki voted favorably to part of the charges brought against Cunha by the Prosecutor-General. The rapporteur ruled that there is probable cause to believe that Eduardo Cunha pressured one of the whistleblowers in the Petrobras corruption probe, Operation Car Wash, for kickbacks. According to the charging document filed by Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot, Cunha was paid $5 million to secure two drillship contracts for shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries in 2006 and 2007.
The deal was struck without tender and was facilitated through lobbying by Fernando Soares and former Petrobras' International Director Nestor Cerveró. This was brought to light by a plea bargain statement from former Toyo Setal consultant Júlio Camargo. He is implicated in the deal for receiving $40.3 million from Samsung.
During the Supreme Court trial, Cunha's lawyer Antonio Fernando Barros said the charges “have no reasonable grounds”. According to him, Fernando Soares testified he had never met the lower house speaker around the time when the contracts were signed nor has he been his partner.
Minutes before a majority of the Supreme Court ministers voted to uphold the charges and prosecute the case against Eduardo Cunha, he said he was serene and stood on truth's side. “An indictment is no guilty verdict. In 2013, the Supreme Court indicted me by 5 votes to 3 and eventually I was unanimously acquitted,” he went on.
But the Supreme Court vote yesterday does add to the discomfort Cunha has caused as lower house speaker. When the charges were first brought before the Supreme Court, a number of deputies took the floor to call for his removal as speaker. “Eduardo Cunha doesn't represent us and can't be the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies [any more] [...] his continuance as speaker brings shame on the whole Brazilian parliament,” said a fellow constituent, Deputy Chico Alencar (Rio de Janeiro).
Congressman Alessandro Molon, leader of the Sustainability Network party (REDE), also noted that two parties have already filed formal requests with the Prosecutor-General to remove Cunha. “We expect the Supreme Court to deal with this issue [Cunha's removal] as soon as the indictment comes through. In the meantime, we want the speaker to step aside to spare the House from the embarrassment caused by these circumstances and so that the speaker can answer the charges away from this position.”
Translated by Mayra Borges
Fonte: Agência Brasil.