RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s attorney general on Friday offered a joking retort to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s remark that the corruption allegations he faces are due to a “diabolical pact” among different institutions, saying he is not a religious person.
“What I can say is that I’m not religious,” Rodrigo Janot joked to reporters when asked about Lula’s comments.
Janot, who gave a press conference to review anti-corruption investigations this year, added that Lula was free to express his opinion.
Lula, who is set to stand trial in three separate corruption cases, said at an event Thursday in Sao Paulo, where he received the support of intellectuals and leaders of political, labor and social movements, that he was an innocent victim of political persecution.
“There’s an almost diabolical pact against me involving the press, the federal Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Police and (Judge Sergio) Moro,” the former president said.
In one of the cases, the erstwhile union leader, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011, is accused of receiving kickbacks from engineering companies implicated in a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Those favors from the companies OAS and Odebrecht allegedly came in the form of improvements to a beachfront triplex and a country estate, respectively, although Lula vehemently denies being the owner of those properties and says no one in Brazil is more honest than he is.
Lula has also been charged with attempting to obstruct the investigation into the Petrobras scheme, in which OAS, Odebrecht and other large engineering and construction companies allegedly overcharged Petrobras 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.
In a third case, Lula is charged with receiving kickbacks in return for using his influence to secure financing for a project in Angola involving Odebrecht.
During the press conference, Janot also criticized some bills being discussed in Congress, including one that would grant immunity from prosecution to politicians whose campaigns were found to have been financed with money siphoned from Petrobras and another that could pave the way for criminal charges to be filed against prosecutors deemed to be overzealous.
“It’s obvious that in an investigation of this type, which disturbs economic and political powers, self-preservation provokes a reaction from those centers of power,” he said.