Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Police question Lula in corruption probe

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Brazilian police questioned former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for about four hours Friday in a sprawling corruption case involving state-run oil company Petrobras that has already ensnared some of the country's most-powerful lawmakers and businessmen.

Lula, who governed from 2003 to 2010 and remains a towering figure in Brazil, angrily denounced the morning raid on his home as part of a campaign to sully his image, that of his party and that of his handpicked successor, President Dilma Rousseff.

"I felt like a prisoner this morning," said Silva, who has expressed interest in possibly running for president again. "I have gone through many things, and I am not one to hold a grudge, but I don't think our country can continue this way."

Police arrived at about 6 a.m. at Silva's residence in greater Sao Paulo's Sao Bernardo do Campo and spirited the 70-year-old to a federal police station at the city's Congonhas airport. Silva was released after questioning.

Judge Sergio Moro, who is heading the Petrobras investigation, said he allowed the police to haul in Silva for security reasons, citing fears that demonstrations could complicate efforts to question him. He also stipulated that police were not to handcuff or film the former leader.

Officials said they were looking into 30 million Brazilian reals (US$8.12 million) in payments for speeches and donations to the Instituto Lula by construction firms that were crucial players in the Petrobras corruption scheme. They were also looking into whether renovations and other work at a country house and beachfront apartment used by Silva and his family constituted favour's in exchange for political benefit.

Prosecutors in the so-called Car Wash corruption case say more than US$2 billion was paid in bribes to obtain Petrobras contracts, with some money making its way to several political parties, including the governing Workers' Party.

- AP