Brazil’s former President Luiz Lula to stand trial on corruption charges

BRASILIA, Brazil, Sept. 21 (UPI) — A Brazilian judge has ordered Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, to stand trial over corruption and money-laundering charges related to the Petrobras bribery scandal.

Judge Sergio Moro, the head of the Brazilian government’s Operation Car Wash investigation into Petrobras, said there was “sufficient evidence” of Lula’s responsibility in the bribery scandal, O Globo reported.

Prosecutors allege Lula, 70, was the “big boss” behind the corruption scandal involving Petrobras, a semi-public oil and gas company, that led to $12.6 billion in losses. Lula, who served as president of Brazil from 2003 until 2010, was questioned in March over allegations of money laundering in deals with construction companies.

Prosecutors allege Lula and his wife, Marisa Leticia, failed to declare to authorities a $550,000 luxury penthouse in the Guaruja resort. Lula has denied owning the penthouse and said allegations against him are politically motivated.

The apartment was built by a construction company implicated in the Petrobras scandal in which overpriced contracts were given in return for bribes, authorities said.

Overall, Lula is accused of accepting $1.1 million in bribes related to Petrobras.

“I am sad,” Lula said Tuesday. “It is a big farce, a big lie, a big pyrotechnic show … What’s happening isn’t getting me down, but just motivates me to go out and talk more.”

Lula was former President Dilma Rousseff‘s political mentor, handpicking her as his successor. She was removed from the presidency through impeachment on Aug. 31. Lula previously declared his intention to run for president in 2018.

Rousseff previously named Lula her chief of staff, which shielded him from prosecution until she was impeached.

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