By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As part of the on-going Operação Lava Jato (Carwash) corruption investigation, Brazil’s Federal Police took in former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for questioning Friday morning while more than 200 federal police officers served 33 search warrants and eleven bench warrants in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia.
Ex-President Lula arrived at Congonhas Airport before 8:30 AM to answer questions by investigators, after police officers arrived at his residence in the São Paulo Metropolitan Area with warrants. The former head of state is accused of knowing about the Petrobras corruption scandal. During the entire morning dozens gathered at the airport to protest against the ex-president.
On Thursday Lula had denied any participation in illegal activities. “I have never participated, directly or indirectly in any illegal [activity] be it in the Lava Jato Operation or any other [scandal], before, during or after my administration,” the former leader said in a note published by the Lula Institute.
Friday morning, the institute that bears the former president’s name said the actions taken by the federal police were illegal and arbitrary. “The violence practiced today against former President Lula and his family is an aggression to the rule of law which affect the entire Brazilian society,” said the press release, adding that Friday’s actions will be ‘rejected by all democrats’. Outside Lula’s home, groups for and against the former leader clashed and police had to intervene.
This week, national newsweekly IstoÉ published a story which states that Senator Delcidio do Amaral accused Lula and President Dilma Rousseff of having knowledge of the corruption at Petrobras as part of a deal with federal prosecutors for leniency in charges he obstructed investigations. Amaral left prison February 19th after spending more than eighty days incarcerated for allegedly offering to pay the family of a former Petrobras director R$50,000 per month and getting the executive out of the country in return for his silence.
Friday’s warrants are part of the mega money laundering investigation into state-controlled oil giant, Petrobras, started by the Federal Police in March of 2014 that has implicated people from across the political and business spectrum: from Former President Lula to former Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu and current Chamber of Deputies President, Eduardo Cunha, as well as top Petrobras directors. Because of the scandal, Petrobras’ CEO, Maria das Graças Foster was forced to resign in February 2015.