UPDATE 1-Brazil opens formal inquiry into Lula's links to Odebrecht
(Adds details on investigation, currency reaction)
SAO PAULO, July 16 (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors in Brazil have opened a formal inquiry into whether former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva improperly used his connections overseas to benefit Latin America's largest engineering firm, Odebrecht SA, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
In May, prosecutors in Brasilia said they had opened a preliminary investigation into alleged influence peddling, saying the former leader had frequently traveled abroad at Odebrecht's expense after leaving office, from 2011 until 2014.
The inquiry puts the legacy of one of Brazil's most popular former leaders on the line at a time when some are calling for the impeachment of his chosen successor, President Dilma Rousseff, for alleged campaign finance irregularities.
A spokeswoman for Lula's institute, the Instituto Lula, said the institute was surprised by the news, and thought the inquiry had been escalated too quickly. She said Lula's travels were completely legal.
Brazil's currency, the real, weakened after reports of the investigation, closing 0.75 percent lower at 3.153 per dollar.
In their preliminary inquiry, prosecutors cited media reports that Brazil-based Odebrecht had won contracts in countries including the Dominican Republic and Cuba after Lula met with their leaders, traveling at Odebrecht's expense. Continuación...