Prosecutors in Brazil have filed charges of involvement in money-laundering and corruption against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his wife.
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday indicted the couple for alleged implication in graft schemes and the embezzlement of more than $2 billion from the country’s giant state-run oil company, Petrobras.
The former Brazilian president and his wife were also charged with receiving a luxury apartment at a seaside resort in Sao Paulo from a major construction company involved in the Petrobras corruption scandal.
The 70-year-old ex-president has strongly denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly declared his innocence, saying the prosecution against him and his associates is politically motivated.
Lula’s lawyers also said that prosecutors lacked evidence to support their allegations, which they said were part of political scheme to hinder his chances to run for the 2018 presidential election in Brazil.
“This Lula-centered farce was trumped up as an affront to the democratic state and intelligence of Brazilian citizens,” Cristiano Zanin, one of his lawyers, said.
Despite all accusations targeting Lula and his party, recent opinion polls have indicated that he enjoys sizable popularity among Brazilians and stands a much higher chance to win the next presidential election than potential rivals.
Lula, who was key to bringing the summer Olympics to Rio, left office with huge popularity thanks to social programs during his administration, which lifted tens of millions of Brazilians from poverty.
His legacy, however, has been seriously tainted by the emergence of the Petrobras scandal, in which dozens of politicians and executives stand accused of having embezzled from the huge state oil company in a web of inflated contracts, kickbacks and bribes during his presidency.
A scandal also affected Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, leading to her impeachment by Congress last month over breaking budget rules and her handling of Brazil’s worst recession since the 1930s.