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Brazil ex-president Lula charged with money laundering

[JURIST] São Paulo state prosecutors on Wednesday filed charges against former Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva [BBC profile] in connection with money laundering and misrepresentation of assets involving a luxury apartment in the beachfront city of Guarujá. Although the specific charges are unclear, federal investigators alleged [NYT report] that Lula da Silva acquired the property and that a construction company paid for improvements with funds that may have come from the giant graft scheme at Petrobras [corporate website]. Lula da Silva has denied the allegations while his supporters have condemned the charges as being part of a media conspiracy to oust current President Dilma Rousseff [BBC profile] and prevent Lula da Silva from running again in 2018. Lula da Silva's lawyer, Cristiano Zanin Martins, stated that the former president never concealed payments toward purchase of the property and that he decided against taking control of the same in 2015. He further accused the lead prosecutor Cássio Conserino of harboring his own personal political aspirations. The charges will be brought before a judge who will decide whether or not to accept them and proceed to trial.

Brazil's political establishment has been in turmoil as many powerful politicians including former presidents have been recently brought to the center of embarrassing corruption investigations. Last week, Brazil Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo resigned amid pushback from the ruling Worker's Party over his failure to reign in [JURIST report] the corruption investigation targeting public officials, including former president Lula da Silva. Also last week, Brazil's Supreme Court unanimously authorized [JURIST report] the corruption charges against member of Congress Eduardo Cunha to proceed. Eduardo Cunha was implicated in the Petrobras scandal, and these charges are sure to affect the impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff. President Rousseff herself has been implicated in that very same scandal and has been at the center of impeachment proceedings [JURIST report] for months. More than 100 individuals and 50 politicians have been arrested in connection to the Petrobras scandal, including the chief of staff under Brazil's former President Jose Dirceu and the former President Fernando Collor de Mellon [Britannica profile]. Lula da Silva himself was subpoenaed [JURIST report] by the prosecutor's office in January as they investigated the possible money laundering scheme. In November Brazil's highest court ordered [JURIST report] the arrest of André Esteves, the chief executive of the country's largest investment bank, and that of Delcídio do Amaral, a powerful senator of the country's ruling party, both accused of bribery and corruption affiliated with Petrobras.

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