Brazil’s Supreme Court approved a request to probe former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva alleged involvement in a corruption ring involving Petrobras, the state-controlled oil multinational.
The former president’s defense team said the fresh charges were part of a campaign “to destroy the image of the most popular former president in the country’s history.”
The top court also approved a request by prosecutors to split the investigation of dozens of politicians implicated in the sprawling Petrobras corruption scandal by grouping them by the main parties that prosecutors allege received kickbacks.
In a decision made public on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki agreed to the request by Brazil’s chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot that the investigation be divided into four probes focusing on the Workers Party (PT), which was ousted from government in August, the Progressive Party (PP) and the PMDB in the Senate and in the lower chamber.
Justice Teori Zavascki authorized the inclusion of Lula into the list of PT politicians under investigation for alleged membership in the embezzlement ring at the state-run oil company.
The Supreme Court also approved a resolution that would see those charged to be held in preventative detention as their case proceeds.
Should Sergio Moro, the judge overseeing the corruption probe, decide to proceed with the case against Lula, the former president could be jailed.
That would spell disaster for Lula’s political future, as it would limit his ability to run in presidential elections in 2018.
Lula, who denies all wrongdoing, has previously said that his persecution is driven by political interests that want to prevent his candidacy.
However, the court’s decision to approve the separation of the investigation by political parties is also seen as bad news for de facto President Michel Temer because it will focus the investigation directly on politicians of his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.
Among the politicians who will be under the new spotlight is the leader of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, whose help Temer needs to pass an austerity program through Congress.
In an earlier announcement, police said Lula will face additional charges connected to a case involving contracts obtained by building and engineering conglomerate Odebrecht in Angola. Under Brazilian law, only prosecutors can formally charge someone after a police investigation and those charges must then be approved by a judge.
Lula has already been charged twice in connection to a massive anti-corruption investigation centered on state oil company Petrobras.
The former president’s defense team criticized the leak of the charges to the press and said it was another example of the “media massacre campaign to make headlines in the press and try to destroy the image of the most popular former president in the country’s history.”
No Lula, Please
Rio de Janeiro mayoral candidate Marcelo Freixo, of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), said he accepts the support from the Workers’ Party (PT), adding, however, that he does not find it necessary to have the presence of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in his campaign, arguing that “it makes no sense to bring great national figures” to local elections.
Freixo, a 49-year-old state deputy, surprised the city by reaching the runoff with a total 553,424 votes, thus defeating Pedro Paulo, the hopeful backed by Rio’s current Mayor Eduardo Paes, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), of which President Michel Temer is also a member.
His adversary, 58-year-old Senator Marcelo Crivella, of the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) garnered an 842,201 vote count. A bishop at the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, or Universal Church, as it is known in English, Crivella is a member of the so-called Evangelical base in Congress, which opposes major strides in the legislation on human rights, especially regarding the LGBT community.
Despite his conservative profile, Crivella backed Lula’s administration, and was minister of fishing under former President Dilma Rousseff.
In his attempt to beat Crivella, Freixo is seeking support from left-wing parties such as the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), and the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), the Popular Socialist Party (PPS), and the Green Party (PV). “We can see now a significant progressive front committed to democracy,” Freixo told journalists.