Brazilian police raid homes of Speaker, tourism minister over graft


Brazilian police raided the homes of Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha and two ministers on Tuesday as part of a massive corruption probe, dealing a blow to President Dilma Rousseff`s main coalition partner as it considers backing her impeachment.

Federal police said the raids on Cunha’s homes in Rio de Janeiro and the Brasilia capital were among 53 search-and-seizures carried out in seven states in the investigation, which centres on price-fixing and political kick-backs at state oil company Petrobras.

Most of the confirmed targets of Tuesday’s raids, including Cunha, belong to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party. The PMDB, the country’s largest political party and a key member of Rousseff`s coalition, has been wavering in its support for the president, and its leader, Michel Temer, stands to take over if she is impeached.

An ethics committee formed by members of Brazil’s Lower House also voted on Tuesday to investigate Cunha for lying about Swiss bank accounts.

Local networks broadcast images of Cunha’s home in Brasilia surrounded by several police vans. The veteran lawmaker, a former Rousseff ally turned bitter political foe, remained inside the house, an aide told Reuters.

Cunha is at loggerheads with Rousseff after opening the impeachment proceedings against her on December 2 over opposition allegations that she violated budget laws to increase spending during her re-election campaign last year.

Cunha’s lawyer, Marcelo Nobre, told members of the ethics committee that the raids showed police lacked evidence against his client.

“The search and seizure operation at my client’s home was to search for evidence. There is no proof in this representation. Your honours, if you approve the opening of this probe, you wouldn’t have had the possibility of waiting for the formal accusations to be made, for the legal case to be officially opened, and in the worst case scenario, if everything is proved, there would be a conviction, and only then would this case have enough proof to proceed,” he said.

The early morning raids also targeted the residences of ex-Mining and Energy Minister Edison Lobao and Lower House lawmaker Anibal Gomes.

The homes of Science Minister Celso Pansera, a close ally of Cunha, and Tourism Minister Henrique Eduardo Alves, a former parliamentary speaker and confidant of Temer were also searched.

The raids are likely to reinforce calls in Congress for Cunha’s resignation.

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