Brazil — Lula da Silva will face charges for obstruction of justice after someone involved in the Petrobras corruption scandal accused him of ordering to silence a key witness. Mr. Lula might have overseen efforts to impede the investigation.

To become a defendant in Brazil, a court must accept charges filed by a prosecutor, and that is what happened in Mr. da Silva’s case. A Brazilian federal court accepted the nearly 300-page petition that Attorney General Rodrigo Janot provided in May to allege obstruction of justice from former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In the petition, Janot states that the former president of Brazil was involved in the massive embezzlement scheme in Petrobras.

Lula Da Silva Prosecuted Trial
Brazil’s Lula faces charges for obstruction of justice. Image credit: La Opinion.

Judge Ricardo Augusto Soares Leite believed that Mr. Janot’s indictment has enough evidence to start a trial. The federal court’s statement that formally makes da Silva a defendant was released on Friday in Brasilia. Da Silva’s representatives said in a statement that the former president was not informed of the court’s decision.

The court has charged other six individuals for obstruction of justice who are also related to the Operation Car Wash probe that investigates the corruption case in the state-run oil company Petrólio Brasileiro SA, best known as Petrobras. Among the six defendants are billionaire André Esteves and former Senator Delcídio Amaral.

Esteves is the former chief executive of Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual. The latter and Amaral were arrested last November for allegedly trying to silence a witness with money and the guaranty of fleeing the country. The witness is key to the Car Wash operation.

Regarding the Petrobras corruption case, prosecutors allege that dishonest suppliers and politicians acted together to skim billions of reais -the Brazilian currency- from the oil company over a decade. It is believed that the money was used to fund political campaigns.

A recording proves an attempt of bribe

Mr. Amaral said in a plea bargain that was made public in March that former President da Silva had ordered the bribe payments. Now, Amaral is collaborating with prosecutors in exchange for a lesser sentence. This is the reason that lawyers representing Lula da Silva are claiming to invalid the recent charges. Lawyers say that the accusations have no credibility because Amaral is exchanging any information to get a deal with prosecutors. Da Silva’s lawyers insist their client is innocent.

Lula Petrobras
Lula da Silva defended his stand on the right state of the Instituto Lula donations and said that all contributions had been declared to the pertinent authorities. Image credit: Panorama.

Attorney General Janot was able to present substantial evidence thanks to the son of Nestor Cervero’, a former Petrobras executive. Mr. Cerveró is the witness that was tried to be silent and hide information about the Car Wash probe. But Cerveró’s son was smart enough to record the conversation to expose the senator. In the recording, Amaral offers money and his help to flee the country in exchange for his silence.

The recording was handed to police. Mr. Cerver’o is currently negotiating a plea bargain with prosecutors because he has been accused of participating in the Petrobras’ kickbacks-bribery scheme. The Wall Street Journal quoted Rodrigo Janot who said that Mr. da Silva controlled most relevant decisions, including the dishonest attempts to change the course of Operation Car Wash.

On Thursday, Mr. da Silva lawyers filed a petition at the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva to claim the lack of impartiality by Judge Sergio Moro who is in charged of the Petrobras investigation. The Human Rights office confirmed his petition, and it will be examined to see if it can be admitted, but the process could take up to two years.

Obstruction of justice might be the tip of the iceberg in Lula da Silva’s legal accusations

Da Silva’s nonprofit foundation, Instituto Lula, is under investigation because Brazilian authorities believed that the donations could be a conduit of the illegal money product of the Petrobras corruption. The foundation received millions in contributions made by large firms, and prosecutors are trying to link the quantities with the Operation Car Wash.

Mr. da Silva has also been charged with money laundering after hiding the fact he owns a luxury apartment that was given to him by a construction company that has close ties to the government. Da Silva strongly denies these accusations.

Apart from Lula, Brazil largest engineering companies are being investigated for overcharging Petrobras for works to benefit politicians and executives. According to Reuters, these same companies are also accused of graft on venues for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Both events were awarded to Brazil under da Silva’s presidential period.

Source: The Wall Street Journal