Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Sao Paulo - AFP
Brazilian prosecutors summoned former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Friday for questioning over allegations he laundered money and hid assets linked to a massive corruption scandal.
Lula, Brazil's hugely popular president from 2003 to 2011, is accused of failing to declare a condominium in the resort of Guaruja that was allegedly given to him by construction company OAS, one of the firms caught up in a multibillion-dollar scandal at state oil giant Petrobras.
Sao Paulo state prosecutor Cassio Conserino summoned Lula and his wife, Marisa, for questioning on February 17.
Lula, an icon of the "pink tide" of leftist leaders who swept to power in Latin America at the turn of the millennium, denies the accusations.
"The suspicions of the attorney general's office are unfounded and the accusations over the alleged hiding of assets by former president Lula and his family are frivolous," Lula's foundation said in a statement.
The property in question is a triplex apartment registered to OAS, which is among the companies accused of colluding with Petrobras executives to inflate construction contracts by billions of dollars and pocket the cash, passing some of it along to leaders in Lula's Workers' Party.
Prosecutors say documents and witnesses confirm that Lula's family in fact owned the condo.
"It was even remodeled by OAS, and they put a private elevator in for the ex-president's benefit," Conserino told newspaper O Globo.
Prosecutors also summoned OAS's jailed owner, Leo Pinheiro, and the engineer in charge of the alleged remodeling job.
When he was reelected in 2006, Lula declared on his income taxes that he had made a payment on the property, then under construction, to the former owners, a banking cooperative called BanCoop.
OAS later acquired the condominium complex.
The Lula Institute denied the former president or his family ever owned the apartment.
"The truth will come to light as the investigation unfolds," it said.
OAS is accused in the Petrobras investigation of giving out apartments in the same condominium complex as bribes.