Brazil has formally charged two former presidents, Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with racketeering for plotting to skim funds from Petrobras, the state-owned oil firm.
Brazil’s top prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, alleged on Tuesday that eight members of the Workers Party, including Lula and Rousseff, committed a series of crimes involving Petrobras, including as cartel formation, corruption and money laundering.
They were the first criminal charges to be levelled against Rousseff, who was impeached in 2016 for breaking budgetary laws.
The news was particularly bad for the uphill battle Lula is waging to win the presidency again.
Lula, who is still Brazil’s most popular politician, is appealing a corruption conviction that would bar him from running for president in 2018.
Rousseff was Lula’s designated successor and Brazil’s first female president.
“The crimes are believed to have taken place at least from mid-2002 to May 12, 2016” when Rousseff was suspended as part of impeachment proceedings, the attorney general’s office said.
Their Workers’ Party allegedly pocketed $475m in bribe money, “making use of public entities including Petrobras, the National Development Bank (BNDES) and the Planning Ministry”, according to the charges.
Janot alleged that much of what became a transnational corruption operation was run by Lula.
Lula’s lawyer said the law was being misused to persecute the former president.
A representative for Rousseff said the prosecutor’s office offered no evidence of the crimes and called on the Supreme Court to guarantee the right to defend against them.