By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazilian prosecutors for the state of São Paulo filed charges and issued an arrest request on Thursday against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for money laundering and misrepresentation related to alleged ownership of a triplex apartment in the São Paulo beach town of Guaruja. The arrest request will now have to be accepted by a judge.
Along with Lula, prosecutors also requested the arrest of Lula’s wife and son, former PT treasurer, João Vaccari Neto, the former director and the former president of Bancoop, and executives from the OAS construction company.
According to the prosecutors there is ‘overwhelming proof’ of money laundering, misrepresentation and larceny by the accused. These charges stem from a separate investigation by state prosecutors into Bancoop and are not part of the Lava Jato (Carwash) mega corruption scheme being investigated by federal prosecutors.
Bancoop (Housing Coop for São Paulo Bank Employees) has been under investigation since 2010 by state prosecutors, accused of being a slush fund for the PT party. Reaction to the charges came swiftly with both government allies and opposition leaders criticizing the arrest request against former President Lula.
Finance Minister, Nelson Barbosa told reporters that the arrest request ‘had no basis’ and that the political instability hinders the government’s administration of the country. “This scenario of political polarization is harmful, but we have to continue with this process of dialogue and construction. It’s through talking that we can overcome all our problems, “said Barbosa.
For Workers’ Party (PT) president, Rui Falcão, prosecutors have acted in a biased manner. “Even before hearing (testimony) from anyone, the prosecutor had told a magazine that he would charge the president. He is not credible nor impartial and I don’t think a judge will accept this request,” Falcão told journalists during a press conference.
Vice-president of opposition party PSDB, Carlos Sampaio, told Agencia Brasil that prosecutors may have acted hastily in charging Lula with illicit activities. “With the facts I have now, I see no reason for an arrest request to be added to the charges,” he stated.
According to Sampaio, who is also a prosecutor for the state of São Paulo, the allegations that the arrest is necessary so that the former leader does not interfere with the investigations are not reasonable in this case.
Former Education Minister during the Lula Administration now-turned opposition, Cristovam Buarque, also criticized the action. “First, in a democracy, one only arrests someone with very good cause. To try to arrest a former president of the Republic one must have a lot of evidence, arguments. I hope the Prosecutors’ Office has taken this into consideration,” Buarque told media outlets.
The Lula Institute, created after the former leader left the presidency, released a statement denying that the ex-president is the owner of the triplex apartment. According to the entity the prosecutor in the case has evidence that the former president was and is not the owner of the apartment but is trying to gain fame at the cost of implicating innocent people.
With the latest turn of events, officials are bracing for a reaction from PT supporters on Sunday, when opposition parties scheduled demonstrations across the country calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and the arrest of all involved in the corruption scandals.