RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will face corruption charges in connection with an alleged scheme involving the construction giant Odebrecht — yet another accusation added to a series of corruption charges against the embattled left-leaning leader who is also a presidential hopeful for 2018.
A court Brasilia said in a statement Thursday that Silva was formally charged with interfering in a state-run development bank to assure financing for a small firm owned by a nephew of his late first wife.
Federal prosecutors allege Silva interfered in state-run development bank BNDES to assure financing for a small firm owned by a nephew of his late first wife. The charges against him and 10 other people, including executives of Brazil's mammoth construction company Odebrecht, include corruption, money laundering, influence trafficking and criminal organization.
Silva's attorney, Cristiano Zanin, said in a press conference that he didn't have access to the probe and that his client couldn't have interfered because Brazil's development bank only makes collegial decisions. He also rebuked the accusation made by prosecutors that speeches given by the once hugely popular politician were actually a disguise to channel bribes.
Thursday's announcement is only the most recent of Silva's growing legal woes.
Last month Sergio Moro, a judge hailed as a hero by adversaries of Silva's Workers' Party, ruled that the former president must stand trial on money laundering and corruption charges involving company-financed improvements at a beachfront apartment. Silva says he never owned the apartment.
Silva will also stand trial in a separate case in which a former ally-turned-enemy senator accuses him of obstruction of justice in the sprawling scandal at state-run oil giant Petrobras.
Attorney Zanin did not speak of the specifics of the new charges, but said Silva was the "elected enemy" of politically-biased Brazilian authorities and mentioned those involved in the Petrobras probe.
Zanin also said he will file a petition to remove Moro, who presides many of the state-oil related investigations, from cases related to Silva.
Among his reasons: Moro's presence in business forums organized by Sao Paulo's mayor elect, who is now a key member of center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party, the main adversaries of Silva's Workers' Party.
"There has been no respect to the former president's legal assurances," Silva's attorney said. "There is a will to keep Lula out of the 2018 presidential elections" via legal wrangling.
The press office of the court where Moro sits told The Associated Press that he will only answer in written decisions.
Silva leads early polls for a first vote in 2018, but would lose the runoff against the vast majority of other potential presidential hopefuls.