Brazilian prosecutors in São Paulo requested yesterday the arrest of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known commonly as Lula, in relation to charges laid Wednesday of money-laundering and misrepresentation for allegedly concealing ownership of a luxury penthouse in the seaside resort of Guarujá.
In their request, the prosecutors claimed a “preventive arrest” was essential, as they say there is reason to believe Lula will “activate all his violent network of support to prevent the criminal procedure that starts with these charges from following its natural course.”
The request for arrest has not yet been accepted by a judge.
The charges add to last week’s scandal, in which Lula was detained and questioned for three hours as part of the massive Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), an investigation that began in 2014 and concerns dozens of politicians and business executives in relation to contracts with state oil company Petrobras.
While this week’s charges are separate, they concern the same seaside luxury apartment, which officially belongs to construction company OAS.
Fifteen other people were charged alongside Lula, including his wife, Marisa, and eldest son, Fábio Luís; former OAS president, Léo Pinheiro; and former treasurer of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), or Workers’ Party, João Vaccari Neto.
Lula’s lawyer, Cristiano Zanin Martins, insists that the accusations are baseless and politically motivated, denying that the former president owned the property. “The owner of a property is the person listed in the registry,” he told reporters. “It doesn’t matter who some people think it belongs to.”
Other supporters say the charges are intended to tarnish the reputation of the former president, who is rumoured to be running for office again in 2018.
Amid the charges, PT President Rui Falcão confirmed yesterday that Lula has been proposed a ministerial position in President Dilma Rousseff’s government in order to take advantage of legal protections given to sitting politicians under Brazilian law. Lula has not yet accepted the position.
Should he accept, Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2011, can only be tried by Brazil’s Supreme Court, a fact which supporters say is Lula’s only chance of a fair trial.