A former finance minister and close confidant of Lula accused Brazil’s ex-president of receiving bribes from contractor Odebrecht, adding to a list of corruption accusations that threaten Lula’s ability to run for president in 2018.
Lawyers for the former finance minister, (and ex Jesuit) Antonio Palocci, said he told prosecutors that Lula accepted Odebrecht’s purchase of land for an institute in his name, a country house in São Paulo state and 300 million reais (US$ 97 million) to be used after he left office.
A representative for Lula said in a statement that Palocci, who was arrested a year ago in a corruption investigation, was lying and making accusations without evidence to secure a favorable deal with prosecutors to reduce his sentence.
Such testimony from a very close confidant could be damning for Lula, who intends to run for president again next year if he can successfully appeal a conviction that would bar him from standing. Lula faces four additional trials.
Separately, Brazil’s top prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, charged Lula, ex-President Dilma Rousseff and a former minister with obstruction of justice related to Lula’s nomination as Rousseff’s chief of staff in 2016. The nomination, later struck down by the Supreme Court, would have shielded Lula from prosecution by lower courts.
It was the second charge from Janot in two days. He had earlier accused Lula, Rousseff and six other members of their Workers Party for allegedly forming a criminal organization to carry out corruption and other crimes involving state-controlled oil company Petrobras.
Palocci leveled his accusations in two hours of testimony as part of a probe into allegations that Lula accepted the land for the institute.
“It was a blood pact and a package of bribes that included payment for a property, an estate ranch and 300 million reais that gradually were made available according to a spreadsheet delivered by the contractor,” said Adriano Bretas, one of Palocci’s lawyers.
Tracy Reinaldet, another of Palocci’s lawyers, said the agreement was made during the transition from Lula into Rousseff’s first term. Palocci also served as Rousseff’s chief of staff initially but was forced to resign due to corruption allegations.