The once powerful speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress Eduardo Cunha was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison in a landmark for the country’s battle against rampant, high-level corruption.
The sentence, detailed in a court document signed by top anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, likely signals the end of the road for a man who spearheaded last year’s controversial impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff.
Prosecutors said he took millions of dollars in bribes as part of a sprawling corruption network in which politicians and major contractor embezzled from state oil company Petrobras. The scandal has upended Brazilian politics, with dozens of politicians accused of participating in the scheme.
Until his arrest in October 2016, Cunha was one of Brazil’s most influential politicians.
A leading member of the prominent evangelical conservative movement, he used his position as lower house speaker to out-maneuver Rousseff and engineer her downfall. Rousseff’s conservative vice president, Michel Temer, took over and this briefly left Cunha next in the line of succession for the presidency.
Widely hated by Brazilians, Cunha earned a reputation as the ultimate master of dark political arts and was often dubbed Brazil’s Frank Underwood — the scheming, corrupt anti-hero of the hit Netflix series “House of Cards” about a US politician.