Another supporter and business partner of the Castro brothers, has been arrested for corruption. Just imagine how many millions of dollars all these crooks made during the construction of the Mariel port in Cuba.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva questioned after police raids in new phase of investigation into bribery and kickback allegations
Brazilian police are questioning the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after raiding his home and several associated buildings in a search for evidence as part of an ongoing corruption investigation.
The detention of the influential Workers’ party politician – who is best known by his nickname Lula – marks a dramatic new phase of the Lava Jato (“carwash”) inquiry into bribery and kickback allegations involving leading Brazilian companies and dozens of congressmen.
The huge investigation – easily the biggest in the country’s history – initially focused on corruption and money laundering at the oil company Petrobras but has since widened to include construction and brokerage firms.
It is likely to add to the pressure on the government of Dilma Rousseff, who is already struggling with an impeachment challenge, economic recession and the Zika epidemic.
Federal police launched the action against Lula early on Friday morning with raids on his apartment in São Bernardo do Campo, the home of his son Fabio Luiz, the Lula Institute, and addresses in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro.
According to local media, about 200 officers and 30 tax auditors were involved in this phase of the operation, which has been named Aletheia – meaning “truth of disclosure” in Greek. Police reportedly have 33 warrants for search and seizure and 11 warrants for the arrest of individuals wanted for questioning, including Lula, his wife, Marisa, his children Marcos Claudio, Fabio Luis, Sandro Luis, and Marlene Araujo, and the head of the Lula Institute, Paul Okamotto.
The warrants were granted by Judge Sergio Moro in Curitiba, where the Lava Jato investigation is based.
The inquiry is said to be based on testimony given in a plea bargain by the Workers’ party senator Delcídio do Amaral, who has allegedly accused the former president of trying to buy the silence of witnesses, including Nestor Cervero, the former Petrobras director.
Police are also looking into newspaper reports alleging that Lula received favours from construction firms in the form of work done at apartments in Atibaia and Guarujá, São Paulo.
The former president – who has recently indicated that he may stand again in 2018 – has denied the accusations against him, saying they are politically motivated. He has not been charged with a crime.
The Lula Institute put out a statement on Thursday saying “former President Lula never participated directly or indirectly in any illegality”.
Union members, who are supporters of the Workers’ party, are reportedly protesting in front of Lula’s house.
A Brazilian news magazine has accused former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of acting as lobbyist in Cuba for Brazil’s largest engineering firm Odebrecht, which built the container terminal at the Cuban port of Mariel.
In this week’s edition headlined “Our man in Havana,” Epoca magazine cited Brazilian diplomatic cables about visits to Cuba by Lula after he had left office. During those visits he sought to further Brazilian business interests on the island, it said.
One cable from 2014 reported on a meeting in Havana at which Lula discussed with Odebrecht executives how to secure Cuban guarantees for loans from Brazilian state development bank BNDES to finance new projects sought by Odebrecht in Cuba.
Lula’s foundation called the Epoca story “offensive” and “malicious” and “criminal manipulation” of government documents.
“These are normal activities. The ex-president did nothing illegal and was discussing sovereign guarantees for loans to Cuba in a meeting where a diplomat was present,” said Jose Chrispiniano, a spokesman for the Lula Institute.
Lula is under investigation for improperly using his influence to benefit Odebrecht, whose billionaire chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested in June in connection with the massive bribery and political kickback scandal focused on state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.
Prosecutors say Lula frequently traveled abroad at Odebrecht’s expense after leaving office, from 2011 until 2014.
The inquiry puts the legacy of one of Brazil’s most popular former leaders on the line at a time when some are calling for the impeachment of his chosen successor, President Dilma Rousseff, for alleged campaign finance irregularities.
Epoca, owned by the Globo media group, said Lula lobbied to get Cuba good terms for a $682 million loan from BNDES that went to finance the Mariel port project built by Odebrecht.
The Lula Institute said that, by the time Lula visited Cuba in 2011, the loan for Mariel had been approved two years earlier in contracts “that no alleged lobbyist could alter.”
Lula, founder of the ruling Workers’ Party, said in a radio interview on Friday he could run again for the presidency in 2018 to prevent his opponents winning the elections.
While still an influential politician, Lula’s popularity has been hurt by the arrest on corruption charges of his former chief of staff and the treasurer of his party. Recent polls show the leftist leader would be defeated if he ran again.