Sun, May 03, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Ex-Brazilian president targeted by probe: report

NY Times News Service, RIO DE JANEIRO

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva participates in the May Day celebrations in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 1, 2015.

Photo: AFP

Brazil’s political establishment was shaken on Friday by the news that federal prosecutors had opened an inquiry into the business activities of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who presided over Brazil’s emergence this century as a leading power in the developing world.

Da Silva, 69, was among the founders of Brazil’s governing Workers Party.

The inquiry by a special anticorruption unit of the Brazilian Public Ministry, a body of independent prosecutors, is reportedly delving into Da Silva’s ties to Odebrecht, one of Brazil’s largest construction companies. That the inquiry, a preliminary step before deciding whether to open a broader investigation, had opened was first reported by Brazilian magazine Epoca.

The prosecutors are examining whether Da Silva improperly used his influence as a former president and one of Brazil’s most powerful political figures to obtain loans from Brazil’s National Development Bank, a state-controlled financial institution with a lending portfolio larger than that of the World Bank, for Odebrecht’s dealings in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

After eight years as president, from 2003 to 2010, when Brazil enjoyed robust economic growth and expanded its antipoverty projects, Da Silva leveraged his prominence to attract lucrative speaking engagements outside Brazil. He often traveled abroad on one of Odebrecht’s private jets, Epoca reported.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Odebrecht denied any wrongdoing in connection to the questions raised in the inquiry.

Speaking before supporters in Sao Paulo on Friday during a commemoration of International Workers’ Day, Da Silva did not specifically address news of the inquiry.

However, in a speech, he lashed out at some in the media, referring specifically to Epoca and Veja, another magazine that has reported critically on him.

“I see in these Brazilian magazines, which are trash, the insinuations,” Da Silva said. “They’re out to get Lula, but that’s what I like if they want a fight.”

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