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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Graft scandal engulfs Brazil MPs
Brazilian Congress building in Brasilia
More than a tenth of members of Congress are affected
A congressional panel in Brazil has recommended that 72 deputies and senators be expelled for taking bribes.

The panel has been investigating a huge corruption ring accused of profiting from inflated contracts to supply ambulances to local authorities.

The 69 deputies and three senators comprise more than a tenth of the sitting members of Brazil's Congress.

The BBC's Tim Hirsch in Sao Paulo says the situation is unprecedented even for a country used to corruption scandals.

Operation Leech

The panel, the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI), found that the accused had taken money and gifts in a complex fraud linked to the supply of ambulances to local authorities across Brazil, dubbed Operation Leech by the federal police.

Their names have now been referred to ethics committees in both houses of Congress, and will need final approval before coming into effect.

The commission absolved a further 18 suspects on grounds of lack of evidence.

The head of the company at the centre of the scheme told the committee how the politicians agreed to vote through public funds for the ambulances well above their actual cost and the difference was shared out between those involved.

Only two of the 72 accused are from the governing Workers Party (PT) of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is standing for re-election in October.

However, some 63 are part of the president's support base in Congress.

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