Lula da Silva to be investigated over the vote-buying scheme in Congress
Brazilian prosecutors will likely investigate former President Lula da Silva's alleged involvement in a vote-buying scheme in Congress that led to the conviction of several of his closest aides for corruption, two newspapers reported.
O Estado de Sao Paulo and Folha de Sao Paulo newspapers said the government's chief prosecutor Roberto Gurgel has recommended that the allegations be heard in court after the businessman at the centre of the corruption case, Marcos Valerio, alleged Lula da Silva not only knew about the illegal scheme but received money from it.
Government sources told reporters that Gurgel had decided not to investigate the allegations himself and has sent the case to a lower federal court where Lula da Silva can be probed because he no longer has immunity from prosecution.
Lula da Silva led Brazil from 2003-10 and is the political mentor to current President Dilma Rousseff. Although Rousseff has so far avoided any negative political fallout from the years-old scandal it could change if Lula da Silva is found to have been directly involved.
Valerio was sentenced to 40 years in jail for channelling public money to politicians during the early years of Lula da Silva's presidency, and his credibility as a witness is in some doubt. The vote-buying scandal that erupted in 2005 almost brought down Lula da Silva's government and led to the biggest political corruption trial in Brazilian history that ended last year.
Three top leaders of the ruling Workers' Party, including his former chief of staff Jose Dirceu, were sentenced in November to more than 10 years in prison for running a political bribery scheme in which congressmen received monthly payments to vote for legislation proposed by Lula da Silva's minority government.
The case heard by Brazil's Supreme Court, gripped Brazil for months, bringing an unprecedented level of accountability to a country long used to widespread corruption.
The former popular president was not charged in the scandal. He has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the vote-buying scheme and has even suggested it never existed. Though Lula da Silva remains Brazil's most popular politician, the convictions have tarnished the memory of his time in office and marred his legacy.
Among the more serious accusations he made, Valerio said Lula da Silva authorized loans from state banks to the Workers' Party that provided the funds to bribe politicians.