Brazil prosecutors methods questioned after Lula detained
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, March 9 (Reuters) - An investigation into a massive corruption scheme centered on Brazilian state oil company Petrobras enjoys overwhelming public support but concern is growing that prosecutors may be over-reaching as they pursue politicians and executives.
The high-profile detention for questioning last week of former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva drew criticism from the government and federal judges, reigniting debate over the methods used in "Operation Car Wash".
Critics say prosecutors trying to unravel the vast network of bribery and political kickbacks and Judge Sergio Moro, who presides over the case, are unfairly leaking evidence to the media and have left defendants in prison for months without charges as part of a strategy to win plea bargain deals.
Those allegations have intensified in the last few days.
"The detention of Lula has put a lot of stress on the whole investigation," said Rafael Mafei, a law professor at the University of Sao Paulo. "It was a very public incident broadcast live on television and involved an ex-president."
Mafei said Moro's methods test the limits of the law but are warranted by the scale of the graft scheme, a situation he compared to Colombia's war on drug cartels in the 1990s.
"Many Brazilians believe that our existing legal system is poorly equipped to handle such massive illegality that is larger than the justice system itself," he said.
Crucially, Moro's tactics have won the backing of higher courts in dealing with Brazil's biggest ever corruption scandal, in which a cartel of builders overcharged Petrobras for contracts, paying bribes to company directors and kickbacks to politicians. Continuación...