Brazil may expel 72 legislators over fraud

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The Independent US

A congressional panel has called for three senators and 69 deputies to be expelled for taking bribes, following an investigation into a massive corruption ring centring on the sales of ambulances to health authorities at hugely inflated prices.

Brazil's Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry found the 72 legislators - a tenth of the members of Brazil's congress - had received money and gifts in a complex fraud, dubbed "Operation Leech" by the police.

The legislators proposed budget amendments for authorities to buy ambulances from a dealer in rigged biddings at above-market prices. The profits were then split among the mayors, the legislators and the dealer. More than 1,000 ambulances were sold last year.

The case has now been referred to ethics committees in both houses of Barzil's congress. They will decide whether to expel the legislators.

While only two of the 72 are from the governing Workers Party of the President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is standing for re-election in October, 63 are part of the president's support base in congress.

A recent opinion poll showed the President has doubled his lead over his nearest rival, the former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, in the past month.