Ex-presidents accused of forming criminal group in Brazil

2017-09-06 10:49
Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (AP File)

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (AP File)

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Sao Paulo — Brazil's top prosecutor accused former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva late on Tuesday of leading a criminal organisation, along with several of his political allies, in order to extract millions of dollars in bribes.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot also named Silva's successor, former President Dilma Rousseff, and several members of their administrations or party in the charges filed with the Supreme Federal Tribunal.

He accuses them of orchestrating the receipt of around $480m in bribes from 2002 to 2016 through their control of state bodies.

Those dates roughly coincide with Silva's and Rousseff's tenures in office. Silva was elected in 2002 and Rousseff took over after his second term. She was impeached and removed from office for illegally managing the federal budget in 2016.

The charges are part of a huge corruption investigation into a scheme to inflate state contracts in order to pay kickbacks and bribes to politicians.

The probe has already netted dozens of executives and senior politicians. Next, the justice handling the probe will decide whether to accept the indictment.

Silva, who is commonly known as Lula, is already facing several charges and has been sentenced to 9½ years in prison in one case. He is appealing.

He has maintained that the charges against him are politically motivated, as has Rousseff. Requests for comment from representatives of both former leaders were not immediately answered.

According to Janot, "Lula, from 2002 until May 2016, was an important leader" of the alleged criminal organisation, both because of the way the bribery scheme was organised and because, as president, he had the power to name people to public posts.

Janot said Silva maintained this power even after he left office because of his influence over Rousseff.

The indictment also says members of two other Brazilian parties — President Michel Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and the Progressive Party — were part of the criminal organisation.

Janot said that after Rousseff left office and Temer took over the presidency, members of his party in Congress took over the leadership role of the conspiracy.

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