UPDATE 2-Brazil congressional ethics committee strips Cunha of his seat
(Adds prosecutors freeze Cunha's assets)
By Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA, June 14 (Reuters) - Brazil's congressional ethics committee voted to strip suspended Speaker Eduardo Cunha of his seat on Tuesday for allegedly lying about undeclared Swiss bank accounts, the latest in a series of political earthquakes to rock Latin America's largest country.
Cunha insisted on his innocence and vowed to appeal the decision to another congressional committee. To remove him from office, a majority of the lower house of Congress still needs to affirm the decision.
If he loses his seat, Cunha, the architect of suspended President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment, will also lose the partial immunity enjoyed by elected politicians. He could then be arrested and prosecuted by lower courts in several corruption cases brought against him.
Cunha has warned that if he is arrested he will take other politicians down with him, signaling a danger for interim President Michel Temer that a Cunha plea bargain could implicate more members of his government and ruling PMDB party in corruption.
Cunha is the only sitting Brazilian lawmaker to face trial in the massive bribery investigation focused on state oil company Petrobras, in which he was indicted for receiving a $5 million bribe related to contracts for two drillships.
The ethics committee voted to eject him from Congress for lying about holding bank accounts in Switzerland with his wife, who has also been indicted by prosecutors for receiving bribe money from a Petrobras purchase of an oil field in Benin.
Federal prosecutors who are unraveling the Petrobras kickbacks scheme ordered the freezing of Cunha's assets. Continuación...