Brazilian police have formally accused a brother of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of influence peddling after a nationwide crackdown on illegal gambling, money laundering and police corruption.
Lula's home in the São Bernardo do Campo suburb, in the Greater São Paulo, was searched this week by authorities as part of a federal police operation (Check Mate) that arrested 87 people on charges of smuggling electronic gambling machines and bribing police in Mato Grosso do Sul state.
Police did not say what was seized in Silva's brother's home or elaborate on the motives for the accusation. President Lula, initially, denied his brother, known as Vavá, is linked to illegal gambling and said he is innocent."
"I don't believe that Vavá has anything to do with anything," Silva said in a statement from India, where he was on an official visit earlier this week.
But, he added, "If there is a court order and his name is on it, have patience, we are all subject to investigation." In private the Brazilian president was quoted saying he doubted very much his brother had the "brains" for such a sophisticated operation.
Vavá's son, Edson Inácio da Silva, told Globo TV that his father would not comment on the search, and that authorities only removed two papers, which he said were unimportant.
However according to police sources Lula's brother was involved in setting up meetings between government officials and interested parties. Apparently this was what appeared on phone calls taped by the police investigation. These calls show Vavá asking for money from Nilton Cezar Servo, who is charged by the police as the chief of a slot machine Mafia.
Some of Vavá "clients" are linked to the electronic gambling machines business and apparently paid a fee ranging between US$ 1.500 and US$ 2.000 for appointments with government officials. However Vavá made it clear he had no responsibility in the outcome of the meetings. Influence peddling in Brazil is not a crime that entails jail.
In one of the tapes Vavá is caught talking with Nilton Cesar Servo an illegal gambling czar for whom the Check Mate operation was set up, but apparently the president's brother was unable to obtain licences for the electronic gambling machines or impede their confiscation.
In Brazil electronic gambling machines and bingos are granted precarious licences because they are known to be used for laundering corruption money from government officials and police racketeering.
But not only his eldest brother Vavá was in trouble, a man very close to the Lula family, Dario Morelli, was arrested on corruption charges and suspended from his job in the city of Diadema's sanitation department.
President Lula confirmed that Dario Morelli Filho – is a friend of the family.