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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 03:45 GMT 04:45 UK
Brazil moves against top senator
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Renan Calheiros, president of the Brazilian senate
The president of the senate has been increasingly beleaguered
A congressional ethics committee in Brazil has voted in favour of removing the president of the senate following a lengthy corruption scandal.

Renan Calheiros, who has been a key ally of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, denies the charges against him.

The issue now seems certain to go to a final vote on the floor of the senate next week.

The move comes just a week after a decision to charge a former top presidential aide for corruption.

Since this controversy first broke in May this year, Mr Calheiros has fought to preserve his position.

But the vote to remove him by a congressional ethics committee is a damaging blow.

He had from the start admitted using a lobbyist to pass on child support payments to his former mistress but always claimed it was his own money.

Presidential ally

However, the revelation prompted questions about how he was able to afford what were generous contributions on a salary of just over $6,000 (2,970) a month.

Renan Calheiros (L) with President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
Renan Calheiros is a staunch ally of President Lula (R)

Mr Calheiros sought to explain this by claiming he had income from a number of farms.

But alleged customers were interviewed on television and denied ever having done business with him.

As other allegations against Mr Calheiros began to surface, his position has been gradually eroded though he personally has always remained defiant.

President Lula, who had been standing by an important ally, indicated he thought the matter needed to be resolved.

This controversy has come to a head just a week after it was decided that 40 people, including the president's former chief of staff, should face charges over an illegal fund-raising scheme to finance election campaigns and bribe members of congress.

The president has always denied knowledge of any corruption schemes and has retained his personal popularity but he may be about to lose another important ally.

Q&A: Brazil corruption scandal
04 Sep 07 |  Americas
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28 Aug 07 |  Americas
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23 Aug 07 |  Americas
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13 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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