The massive investigation into corruption at Petrobras, the Brazilian energy giant, has targeted its biggest figure so far: Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
News reports said Lula, as he is known, was detained and taken to the Sao Paulo airport for questioning. Brazilian police executed 33 search warrants and 11 arrest warrants on Friday. Two of them were in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in Sao Paulo state, where Lula lives.
Police said Lula received illegal kickbacks from the corruption at Petrobras.
“Ex-president Lula, besides being party leader, was the one ultimately responsible for the decision on who would be the directors at Petrobras and was one of the main beneficiaries of these crimes,” a police statement said. “There is evidence that the crimes enriched him and financed electoral campaigns and the treasury of his political group.”
At issue is Operation Car Wash, the investigation into alleged corruption and money laundering at Petrobras, the crown jewel of Brazilian state enterprises. Many of those activities are alleged to have taken place between 2003 and 2010, when Lula was president. Executives at the firm are accused of overcharging for contracts with construction companies, and funneling the difference either to themselves, others, or political parties, including Lula’s Workers Party.