UPDATE 8-Brazil Supreme Court removes lower house speaker Cunha

jueves 5 de mayo de 2016 19:20 GYT

(Adds Temer barred from running in 2018)

By Leonardo Goy and Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA May 5 (Reuters) - Brazil's Supreme Court removed the speaker of the lower house of Congress on Thursday on charges of obstructing a corruption investigation, days before an impeachment process that he engineered was expected to oust President Dilma Rousseff.

The removal of Eduardo Cunha, a bitter rival of Rousseff and one of Brazil's most divisive public figures, was the latest in a series of political earthquakes in South America's largest country as it struggles with a sweeping corruption scandal and the worst recession in decades.

The Supreme Court voted unanimously to approve a request by Brazil's top prosecutor to strip Cunha of his influential post for allegedly intimidating lawmakers and obstructing an investigation into accusations that he held undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. Cunha said he would appeal.

An evangelical Christian with strong support from the religious right in Congress, Cunha has for months fended off ethics committee hearings in the lower house about whether he lied about the accounts, using every trick in the procedural book.

The bespectacled speaker with slicked-back hair has remained unflappable, calmly denying prosecutors' accusations he had used the Swiss accounts to stash millions of dollars in bribe money.

Cunha is the only sitting lawmaker so far officially charged by the Supreme Court with corruption in the sweeping kickbacks scandal focused on state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, commonly known as Petrobras.

Deputy speaker Waldir Maranhao, a member of the Progressive Party who is also being investigated in the Petrobras scandal, became acting head of the lower chamber with Cunha's suspension.   Continuación...