The ethics committee of Brazil's lower house has begun hearings that could lead to the expulsion of one of the country's most powerful lawmakers.

A Supreme Court decision earlier this month had already suspended Eduardo Cunha as speaker of the chamber of deputies. Now his colleagues will consider whether he should be kicked out of the body entirely.

Cunha is facing allegations of lying to congress by denying holding overseas bank accounts, an assertion he repeated at Thursday's hearing.

Swiss prosecutors contend that Cunha held secret accounts at the Julius Baer bank worth an estimated $5 million.

Brazilian investigators suspect the funds are linked to a corruption scheme at state oil company Petrobras.

They also allege that Cunha has undeclared accounts in the United States containing more than $20 million.