Brazilian police have asked the Federal Supreme Court (STF) to interrogate former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for a corruption investigation at state-run oil firm Petrobras.
Police chief Joselio Azevedo de Sousa on Thursday lodged the appeal with Federal Supreme Court Judge Teori Zavascki, saying that Lula’s Workers’ Party “could have benefited from the Petrobras scheme,” the court’s media office said Friday.
Lula, currently on a visit to Argentina, told Brazilian radio station CBN that he was unaware of the developments. Lula and Rousseff have not been charged with any crime but the allegations could mar their legacy.
The written police appeal said the former leader could have “gained advantages for himself, for his party … or for his government by sustaining a base of political support through illicit business”.
Paulo Roberto Costa, Petrobras’ former director of refining and supply, said earlier in his testimony that “it was highly unlikely” that Lula and President Dilma Rousseff had been unaware of the embezzlement ring.
Latin American analyst Sue Branford says “even though Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, also from the PT, was re-elected in October 2014, she has been boxed into a corner by an increasingly belligerent and confident right-wing opposition”.
“It was clear from the beginning that the PT would have to make concessions to the right, if only because it had to work through coalition governments, but there should have been red lines. Such a tactic might have shortened the life of the PT government but, defeated in this way, the PT would have stepped down from government, its head held high. As it is, the PT has destroyed itself, at least as a radical, leftwing party,” write Sue Branford and Jan Rocha, authors of “Brazil under the Workers’ Party: From euphoria to despair”.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Chief Prosecutor has also asked for a probe to determine whether Rousseff’s and Lula’s campaigns received illegal donations originating from the scheme, which involved kickbacks allegedly paid by construction companies to politicians and former executives at Petrobras, as the oil company is commonly known.
Rousseff and her Workers’ Party have repeatedly denied any wrongdoings.
Brazil’s Operation Lava Jato has so far led to the arrest of a wide range of politicians and businessmen suspected of illegally distributing funds from overinflated contracts signed with Petrobras.
The STF can authorize investigations into Lula, who is not covered by the immunity enjoyed by currently serving officials.
TBP and Agencies