Brazil ex-president Lula and wife face charges in corruption scandal

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have asked a judge to file corruption charges against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The prosecutors had been investigating whether Lula and his wife failed to declare ownership of a luxury penthouse in the seaside resort of Guaruja.

He has denied owning the flat and says the case is politically motivated.

The flat was built by a construction company implicated in a corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

“Lula was the big boss of the Petrobras corruption scheme. Lula was on top of the power pyramid,” prosecutor Deltan Dalagnol said at a news conference in Curitiba on Wednesday.

“Lula appointed several senior executives at Petrobras so that they could raise funds for political parties in the governing coalition [through corruption].

“Without Lula’s decision power, it would be impossible for this scheme to exist,” the prosecutor added.

Last month, after an interview with the BBC, Lula told us he was feeling encouraged that prosecutors were finally presenting their cases against him. He said would rather respond formally to all accusations than see the daily drip of new accusations being leaked through the press.

This case is of major importance for the future of both Lula and his party. Opinion polls suggest Lula is still a political force to be reckoned with and could make a bid for the presidency again.

He is most likely the only politician from the Workers’ Party with real chances of fighting for the party’s project and legacy.

But in order for him to stand a chance, he will have to convincingly clear his name from all accusations.

A former union leader, Lula, 70, served as president from 2003 to 2010.

He announced plans earlier this year to run for office again in 2018 but in July he was indicted on charges of obstructing investigations into Petrobras.

His successor as president, Dilma Rousseff, was dismissed by the Senate last month after an impeachment trial.

A judge is due to rule in the next few days whether to formally charge Lula.

The flat was built by the giant construction company OAS, one of the firms at the centre of the Petrobras affair.

Prosecutors say OAS bought and refurbished the property for Lula and his wife.

The company had earned lucrative contracts during Lula’s years in office, and has been linked to kickbacks from Petrobras.

But the former president insists he has never owned the property.

Six other people are also facing charges, including two executives from OAS.

The luxury penthouse in Guaruja is estimated to be worth up to $550,000 (£415,000).

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