Police in Brazil have raided the houses and offices of a number of top political figures, including those of Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, as part of a massive probe into a corruption scandal involving the state oil giant Petrobras.
On Tuesday, police officers executed 53 search warrants in seven states and the federal district of Brasilia.
In addition to Cunha’s two properties in the capital, Brasilia, and the city of Rio de Janeiro, the raids also targeted the residences of Science Minister Celso Pansera, a close ally of Cunha, and Tourism Minister Henrique Eduardo Alves.
Later in the day, Cunha suffered another setback when the house ethics committee voted to investigate him over the allegation of hiding Swiss bank accounts.
The incidents dealt heavy blows to Cunha, who opened President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings on December 2.
Rousseff stands accused of violating budget laws to push up spending during her 2014 re-election campaign. She denies the allegations and has described attempts made to incriminate her government as a “coup.”
Meanwhile, a nationwide opinion poll showed a decline in the popularity of Rousseff’s government, mostly due to the scandals as well as Brazil’s struggling economy.
Cunha is himself facing formal charges of taking as much as USD 5 million in bribes linked to the scandal at Petrobras.
The politician sharply slammed the Tuesday raids, saying that the police action was prompted by his stance on Rousseff.
The president, too, has been under pressure over suspicions of involvement in illegal funding involving Petrobras.
Rousseff, who served as the oil giant’s chairwoman from 2003 to 2010 when much of the alleged graft took place, denies knowing of or benefiting from the graft.
A number of politicians and former firm executives have been arrested over the corruption scandal which saw an estimated USD 3.8 billion creamed off inflated contracts over a decade.