Brazil prosecutors say Lula was 'general' of vast graft scheme

FORMER PRESIDENT LULA TO FACE CORRUPTION CHARGES

SAO PAULO (AP) - Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Thursday blasted prosecutors who have accused him of masterminding a mammoth kickback scheme, saying they are politically motivated and simply want to keep him from running for office in 2018.

For the lawyers of ex Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the unfounded legal accusation presented the eve by prosecutors of the anti-corruption operation of Lava Jato is no more than an illusionist trick.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Brazil 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.

Despite everything, Lula had retained some of his former popularity and had been expected to be a leading candidate in the presidential election in 2018.

According to the prosecutor, without Lula, the corruption ring would have been impossible.

A possible trial of the former president could prove problematic for newly-confirmed President Michel Temer, who continues to face street protests questioning the legitimacy of his mandate. "There is evidence that PT party leaders enriched themselves with money embezzled from Petrobras", said Dallagnol.

Many prosecutors and investigators say they can not imagine such a powerful figure was unaware of the institutionalised corruption and political kickbacks taking place at Petrobras and other state-run companies.

Prosecutors said in the indictment that after assuming power in 2003, Lula chose to create a structure to buy political support and created a "cushion" of illegal funds to fuel future campaigns for his Workers' Party. Six other people have also been charged alongside Lula and his wife.

The founder of the left-wing Worker's Party, Lula served two terms as president from 2003 to 2010 and remains Brazil's most popular politician.

The judicial campaign is hugely popular among Brazilians fed up with runaway corruption.

He was hailed internationally for social welfare policies that helped fight centuries of deep-rooted inequality in Brazil.

He also was key in winning hosting rights to the 2014 World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which finished on August 21 - South America's first.

The Workers' Party, which dominated Brazilian politics for 13 years, is now in peril.

Previously, Lula was charged with attempting to obstruct investigation in the same case.

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