[JURIST] Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court [official website, in Portuguese] ruled Friday that officials investigating corruption allegations at Petrobras [official website], a state-run oil company, may question former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva [CNN profile] as a witness. In ruling on the motion filed September 11, Justice Teori Zavascki [official profile, in Portuguese] stated that Lula may only be interviewed as an “informant,” not as a suspect. Prosecutors allege that businesses paid a total of over USD $2 billion to obtain Petrobras contracts, which they then exploited by running up costs and delaying completion. More than 50 politicians have been investigated for various improprieties relating to the kickback scheme, including Lula’s former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu [JURIST report]. However, current President Dilma Rouseff [BBC profile], who was chairperson of the Petrobras board while the scheme was carried out, has not been implicated.
Brazil continues to struggle with allegations of corruption despite its attempts to combat graft in politics and business, including the enactment of a new anti-corruption law [ACC report] in August 2013. Last month a Brazil court sentenced [JURIST report] former treasurer of the country’s governing Worker’s Party Joao Vaccari Neto to 15 years and four months in jail for charges stemming from his connection to the Petrobras corruption scandal. Vaccari was found guilty of corruption, money laundering and conspiracy, having accepted at least USD $1 million in bribes from the oil company. Earlier in September the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil banned [JURIST report] corporate entities from providing funding to political candidates in the future in an attempt to prevent further corruption, calling the practice unconstitutional. In August Brazil’s attorney general brought charges [JURIST report] against Eduardo Cunha, current speaker of the lower house of congress, and former president now senator Fernando Collor de Mello, who served as president of Brazil from 1990-92.