Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Image courtesy of Valter Campanato/ Agência Brasil.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was charged on Wednesday with spearheading a corruption scheme tied to Petrobras contracts.

According to Reuters, Brazilian prosecutors have charged Lula with corruption and money laundering for his alleged role as the “boss” of the multi-billion kickback scheme.

Brazilian prosecutors said Wednesday that Lula was the “conductor” of a “criminal orchestra” that they claim aimed to keep the leftist Worker Party in power through “criminal means.”

Prosecutors have not confirmed if they will seek an arrest order for the 70-year old former president.

Prosecutors allege that Lula collected just over $1 million in kickbacks and a luxury apartment from engineering firm OAS.

Lula has denied that he owns the apartment and had previously denied any wrongdoing.

Lawyers representing Lula said the charges are politically motivated and are intended to stop Lula from running during Brazil’s 2018 election, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors added that they believe the Petrobras corruption scandal has cost Petrobras shareholders and Brazilian tax payers about $12.6 billion, Reuters said.

Lula’s wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, has also been charged in connection with the case.

Lula helped found the Workers’ Party and served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010.

Lula is the most prominent politician to be pulled into the Operation Car Wash probe that has focused on kickbacks and money laundering tied to Petrobras contracts.

News that Brazilian authorities were investigating Lula’s role in the Petrobras scheme first broke earlier this year.

In May, Brazilian federal police detained Lula for questioning as part of the corruption probe.

That investigation was made public a little under a year after Brazilian authorities announced they were investigating Lula for alleged influence peddling.

In July 2015, prosecutors confirmed that they were investigating whether Lula used his influence to help Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht win overseas business after he left office.

Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years in prison earlier this year on charges of money laundering, corruption and taking part in a criminal association.

Lead prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Limas told Reuters in June 2015 that he had “no doubt” that Odebrecht and other executives were running a “cartel” that systematically inflated the price of Petrobras contracts and skimmed off excess funds.

The Lula Foundation said at the time that it believes the former president had done nothing wrong.


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