Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is now facing charges for the first time under Operation Car Wash. The announcement was made this Wednesday, September 14, by the task force of the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF), spearheading the operation.
The allegations further include his wife Marisa Letícia da Silva and six other people.
Prosecutors claim that the onetime president was the beneficiary of illicit advantages in connection with a renovation of a triplex in Guarujá, on the coast of São Paulo by construction company OAS.
According to the federal prosecutors, the refurbishment was offered him as compensation for his actions in the corruption scheme at Petrobras.
The charges also target Paulo Okamotto, president of Lula Institute, and former OAS President Léo Pinheiro. The four other accused are also tied to the construction firm.
The Prosecution Service is also investigating whether works carried out by Odebrecht on a farm often visited by Lula’s family in Atibaia, São Paulo, derive from illicit advantages benefiting him. Odebrecht is another construction company implicated under Operation Car Wash.
Lula could be arrested for owning a luxurious apartment on the coast of São Paulo, which was built by company OAS, which is implicated in the Petrobras bribery scandal. The apartment is worth approximately US$ 550,000.
The former leader denies allegations and describes the case as politically motivated. A judge is expected to rule out a decision on his case in a few days.
A huge corruption scheme was uncovered at Petrobras in 2014, as it was revealed businesses paid more than US$ 2 billion in bribes to sign contracts with the oil company and obtain projects which later increased in cost.
The scandal triggered a large-scale inquiry and discontent with impeached President Dilma Rousseff who headed the company in 2003-2010.
Mid-August, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) Justice Teori Zavascki had authorized Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot to look for evidence that Brazil’s suspended President Dilma Rousseff and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva allegedly interfered with Operation Car Wash investigations.
The STF that among other investigated would be former ministers José Eduardo Cardozo and Aloizio Mercadante, the Chief Superior Court (STJ) Justice Francisco Falcão, STJ Justice Marcelo Navarro Ribeiro Dantas, and former senator Delcídio do Amaral.
The prosecutor’s request was motivated by allegations made by then-senator Delcídio do Amaral in his plea bargaining statement that Rousseff and Lula had vested interests in appointing Marcelo Navarro Ribeiro Dantas to the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) last year with the hope that he would help stall Operation Car Wash investigations and release contractor executives from jail.
Amaral said the move was aided by former minister Aloizio Mercadante and José Eduardo Cardozo, who was then Minister of Justice and was responsible for informally providing the President of the Republic with recommendations of Superior Court nominations.
In a statement, Lula’s lawyers said he has never interfered with Operation Car Wash investigations and does not object to any investigation as long as the right to a fair hearing is observed.
“If the Prosecutor-General wants to investigate the former president because of the contents of wiretapped conversations, he should also take action about the judge in charge of Operation Car Wash [Sérgio Moro] leaking these wiretaps because this was illegal,” his counsel wrote.
Through her press office, Dilma Rousseff maintained she has not done anything to interfere with Car Wash investigations.
“The press office for President Dilma Rousseff affirms that launching an investigation was an important step to clarify the facts and show that there have not been any attempts to obstruct the course of justice. Truth will prevail,” the statement read.
A statement from Mercadante denied he has tried to interfere with the investigation. “The Supreme Court’s decision to launch an investigation will be an opportunity to show that former minister Aloizio Mercadante’s action was one of solidarity and there were no attempts to obstruct justice or prevent then-senator Delcídio do Amaral from entering a plea bargaining deal,” the statement read.