Brazil’s ex-leader Lula held over graft probe

 Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

RIO DE JANEIRO. — Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was detained for questioning yesterday in the latest phase of a sweeping anti-graft investigation, according to officials.

Police searched the former Brazilian leader’s house in Sao Paulo, the Lula Institute, and brought him in for questioning, a spokesman for Lula and his institute, told AFP.

The houses of family members were also searched, according to officials.

The federal police also issued a statement confirming earlier media reports of this dramatic development in Brazil’s huge corruption probe, dubbed Operation Car Wash and centred around the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Lula was targeted due to evidence that he profited personally from a bribery scheme at Petrobras, according to the police statement.

Authorities were expected to hold a Press conference later yesterday.

“About 200 federal police and 30 auditors served 44 warrants, including 33 warrants for search and seizure and 11 for detention for questioning,” the federal police said.

The operations in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Sao Paulo states involved probes into “corruption and money laundering, among other crimes practiced by various people in the context of the Petrobras criminal scheme.”

The news came a day after a bombshell claim by a Brazilian magazine that a former close ally of Lula and current President Dilma Rousseff — a senator who has already been charged in the Car Wash probe — was preparing to testify against them.

The report, although unconfirmed, sparked a furious reaction from Rousseff’s government and the president said in a speech that fighting corruption was her “first priority.”

Operation Car Wash has already netted a Who’s Who of Brazilian politicians and businessmen.

These include numerous high-ranking figures from Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, including a former treasurer.

Lula, who was president from 2003-2010 and remains one of Brazil’s most influential figures, is being investigated over alleged ownership of a luxury apartment and a country house.

The properties, which he says do not belong to him, were allegedly renovated by companies accused in the Petrobras corruption scheme.

Both Lula and Rousseff are also facing political heat after the arrest of their former campaign manager, Joao Santana, who allegedly took money originally embezzled from Petrobras. — AFP/France24/Reuters.

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