Federal prosecutors in Brazil announced on Thursday that they are opening a full investigation into former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s alleged overseas lobbying efforts for the scandal-plagued construction firm Odebrecht, the nation’s biggest builder.
The probe will determine whether Silva engaged in “influence peddling” by allegedly swaying foreign leaders to award inflated billion-dollar contracts to Odebrecht, and by pushing Brazil’s state development bank to give the company well over $1bn in low-interest loans since 2011, after he left office.
Such a crime could carry a sentence of up to five years in jail.
Evidence was being gathered before the formal investigation started, said the public prosecutor.
Odebrecht is one of the companies being investigated in corruption claims against Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras. Over 50 political figures, including 33 members of Congress, are being investigated in the Petrobras case.
The former president has not yet commented on the probe.
In May, when the first complaints against him came out, Lula announced that the Brazilian elite feared the possibility of his return to power.
Lula, a charismatic political operator who enjoyed a special bond with his countrymen, handpicked Rousseff to succeed him as the Workers’ party candidate in 2010 as he neared the end of his second four-year term.
In a recent legislation shake-up, Brazil now allows unlimited re-elections, but not longer than two consecutive periods.
In 2013 some members of the ruling Workers Party floated the idea of a comeback by Rousseff’s larger-than-life predecessor, former president Lula even as she herself faced the ire of protestors in the streets demonstrating against price rise, unemployment and allegations of corruption.
TBP and Agencies