SAO PAULO – The chairman of Brazil’s Workers Party (PT) on Friday criticized the far-reaching Lava Jato (Car Wash) anti-corruption investigation that has led to prison sentences being handed down to politicians and business leaders, saying the probe has resulted in wrongful convictions.
Rui Falcao also slammed what he called selective leaks of plea-deal testimony containing accusations against the PT’s two most visible figures – former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his protege and successor, ex-head of state Dilma Rousseff.
“The country needs to be alerted to the damage they’ve caused to the economy (and) workers, and to the trampling of basic rights,” he said at a seminar titled “What Car Wash has done for Brazil.”
Falcao said arbitrary prison sentences had been handed down and that defendants had been convicted without evidence as a result of the probe into a massive pay-to-play corruption scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Prosecutors say Odebrecht and other large Brazilian engineering companies paid bribes to corrupt Petrobras officials in exchange for inflated contracts and funneled money to politicians who provided cover for the graft.
He also said Lula, who faces five trials on various corruption charges, three of them related to the Petrobras probe, was being unfairly targeted by overly zealous investigators.
“They invaded his house, invaded the (Lula) Institute and they didn’t find evidence. It doesn’t exist. There’s nothing there to implicate former President Lula,” the party chairman said.
He also slammed “selective leaks” of sealed plea-bargain testimony provided by dozens of current and former Odebrecht employees.
In recent months, leaks of some of that testimony to the Brazilian media have tied Lula, Rousseff and current President Michel Temer, as well as many other politicians, to the Petrobras scandal.
Temer formerly served as Rousseff’s vice president, but he succeeded her after she was removed from office last year in an impeachment trial for breaking budget laws.
The latest leak, published Thursday night, contained excerpts of testimony to electoral authorities by former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, who said Rousseff knew of illegal campaign contributions by his company to her 2014 re-election campaign.