BRASILIA – Corruption scandals in Brazil are continuing to batter both the government and the opposition, with millions in cash found at a home used by one of President Michel Temer’s former Cabinet ministers and new accusations against the party of erstwhile head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The Federal Police, which has spearheaded a sprawling anti-corruption fight since uncovering a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on Brazilian state oil company Petrobras three years ago, on Wednesday said a total of 51.03 million reais ($16.3 million) was found at an apartment used by former Government Secretary Geddel Vieira Lima.
It was the largest amount of cash ever seized in Brazil, the Federal Police added.
Under house arrest for the past two months on suspicion of trying to interfere with corruption investigations, Vieira Lima formerly held a key Cabinet post in Temer’s administration until being forced to step down in late 2016 amid allegations he pressured the culture minister to approve a property development.
But Vieira Lima also served as vice president of the state-run Caixa Economica Federal bank during the tenure of then-head of state Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT), who was ousted from office via an impeachment process last year.
During the administration of Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Vieira Lima was national integration minister.
Temer – a member of the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) – in June became the first sitting president in Brazilian history to face criminal charges.
The owners of meatpacking giant JBS told prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony that they had paid bribes to Temer (a former vice president under Rousseff) in exchange for “political favors” since 2010.
Temer was spared trial last month by his allies in Brazil’s lower house of Congress, but Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has said he is considering presenting new charges against Temer.
Separately, Janot on Tuesday filed new charges against Lula, accusing him, Rousseff and other PT leaders of leading a criminal organization that worked with other parties, including the PMDB, to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars from state-run companies.
Lula, who still plans to compete in the 2018 presidential election despite being convicted in July of accepting bribes from an engineering firm, says he is a victim of political persecution.