Brazilian federal judge Sérgio Moro accepted this Tuesday, September 20, corruption charges filed by the Operation Car Wash task force against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, his wife, Marisa Letícia da Silva, and six other people. With the decision, the judge formally puts them on trial.
In the complaint, filed last week, federal prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, head of the task force, dubbed Lula “the mastermind behind a corruption scheme identified in Operation Car Wash.”
According to prosecutors, Lula received a total of US$ 1.112 million in bribes from companies involved in Petrobras corruption scandal through undue benefits.
Such benefits included the renovation work of a triplex in Guarujá, on the coast of São Paulo, and the payment of expenses for a storage facility to keep the objects Lula received when he was the president. The benefits were allegedly paid by the OAS contractor.
After the charges were filed, Lula’s lawyers said the petition is part of a “deplorable spectacle of verbosity presented by the Car Wash task force.”
Lula Institute President Paulo Okamotto, former OAS president Léo Pinheiro, and five other people linked to the contractor were also reported by the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF).
Last week, prosecutors accused Lula of being the mastermind in the Petrobras corruption scandal.
“The facts and evidence are enough for me to accept the accusation,” said judge Sergio Moro in a statement. “Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva allegedly received benefits from Group OAS. According to the accusation, he had knowledge of its origins in the criminal scheme that damaged Petrobras.”
On August 19, Moro, who also oversaw the corruption case within Petrobras, released a report clearing Lula of all charges.
Officials at the public ministry decided to press charges anyway, now alleging Lula benefited from “renovations” to the said apartment.
Supporters of Lula argue the actions against the former Brazilian president are politically motivated and an attempt to prevent him from running as president in the next election in 2018.
Cristiano Zanin Martins, lawyer for Lula da Silva and his wife Marisa Letícia, said it strikes him as noteworthy that actions under Operation Car Wash which target his client always conducted at key moments in the country’s politics, referring to the conclusion of the impeachment trial of suspended President Dilma Rousseff at the Senate.
In March, shortly before the motion for Rousseff’s impeachment was approved by the lower house, Lula was coercively taken by the Federal Police for questioning at the Congonhas Airport, in São Paulo, under Operation Car Wash.
“There is a very strong political element to it, as he has been the victim of arbitrary acts, carried out with purposes strange to the case, like the release of intercepted conversations[…], concomitant with the political moments of the country,” said the lawyer.
Martins further stated that Federal Police Commissioner Marcio Adriano Anselmo, who penned the investigation report, is in no condition to conduct a probe against his client, as he has proved biased against Lula on social media.
“It is very clear that this person is not neutral, and it would be his duty under the law to declare himself partial,” he declared.
According to Anselmo, Lula and his wife were the “beneficiaries of unlawful advantages” in the refurbishment of the apartment and the storage of goods belonging to the former president in a deposit.
The couple’s counsel, however, refers to the police report as “a piece of fiction,” as it is based on “false premises and grave legal errors.”
Lula and Marisa Letícia, Cristiano Zanin Martins says, are not the owners of the property, and therefore should not be held accountable for the renovation works, adding that the ownership of the property can be found registered at the Office of Real Estate Registry of Guarujá under the name of construction company OAS.