Brazilian police are questioning former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after raiding his home and several associated buildings in a search for evidence in an ongoing corruption investigation. The detention of the influential Workers party politician – who is best known by his nickname Lula – marks a dramatic new phase of the Lava Jato (“carwash”) probe into bribery and kickback allegations involving the nation’s leading companies and dozens of congressmen.
It is likely to further add to the pressure on the government of president Dilma Rousseff, who is already struggling with an impeachment challenge, economicrecession and the Zika epidemic. Federal police launched the action against Lula early on Friday morning with raids on his apartment in São Bernardo do Campo, the home of his son Fabio Luiz, the Lula Institute, and addresses in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro.
According to local media, about 200 officers and 30 tax auditors were involved in this phase of the operation – which has been named Aletheia (“truth of disclosure” in Greek). Police reportedly have 33 warrants for search and seizure and 11 warrants for the arrest of individuals wanted for questioning, including Lula, his wife, Marisa, children Marcos Claudio, Fabio Luis, Sandro Luis, and Marlene Araujo, and the head of the Lula Institute Paul Okamotto. The warrants were granted by judge Sergio Moro in Curitiba, the base of the Lava Jato investigation.
The inquiry is said to be based on testimony given in a plea bargain by Workers party senator Delcídio Amaral, who has allegedly accused the former president of trying to buy the silence of witnesses, including Nestor Cervero, the former director of oil company Petrobras. Police are also looking into newspaper reports that Lula received favours from construction firms in the form of work done at apartments in Atibaia and Guaruja, São Paulo.