SAO PAULO – Brazilian federal prosecutors on Monday presented new corruption charges against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, already accused in connection with a $2 billion scandal at state oil company Petrobras.
Lula and 10 other people are charged with illicitly obtaining public financing for a project in Angola involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
Prosecutors say Odebrecht paid a total of 30 million reais ($9.3 million at the current exchange rate) in kickbacks in exchange for the former president’s assistance in securing loans from BNDES, Brazil’s largest development bank, most of it channeled through a company owned by one of Lula’s relatives.
In the case of Lula, the charges make a distinction between his actions between 2008 and 2010, when as president he allegedly was the recipient of bribes, and between 2011 and 2015, when as former head of state “he engaged in influence peddling to benefit those involved” in the corruption scheme.
A portion of the illegal payments, according to prosecutors, was disguised as money earned from speeches he gave at Odebrecht’s request.
Lula, who governed from 2003 to 2010, could face some 35 years behind bars if found guilty on all counts of accepting bribes, money laundering, influence peddling and criminal conspiracy, prosecutors said in a statement.
Odebrecht’s former CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, who earlier this year was sentenced to 19 years in prison in the Petrobras case, could face an additional sentence of at least 30 years, it added.
Last week, police found that Taiguara Rodrigues dos Santos, the nephew of Lula’s first wife and owner of the small civil engineering company Exergia Brasil, leveraged the former president’s influence to secure contracts in Angola with Odebrecht.
Authorities told local media that Rodrigues dos Santos received around 20 million reais (some $6.1 million at the current exchange rate) from Odebrecht for purported services provided by his company.
But the Federal Police believes that amount was really a kickback paid for Lula’s help in securing cheap loans between 2011 and 2014 from BNDES.
Just as the Federal Police did last week, federal prosecutors also filed charges against Marcelo Odebrecht, Rodrigues dos Santos and nine others for allegedly participating in the same corruption scheme.
Lula was indicted last month on corruption and money laundering charges in connection with a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on Petrobras that allegedly cost the company roughly $2 billion.
Prosecutors accused Lula of being the “top commander” of the Petrobras scheme, in which Odebrecht and other large companies allegedly overcharged the oil giant for contracts and split the extra money with corrupt Petrobras executives while setting aside some of the loot to pay off politicians who provided cover for the graft.
Prosecutors say the scheme lasted from 2004 to 2014.
Lula also has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly attempting to use bribes to persuade a defendant in the Petrobras case not to turn state’s evidence.