UPDATE 5-Brazil's Lula charged as 'top boss' of Petrobras graft scheme

miércoles 14 de septiembre de 2016 20:18 GYT

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By Sergio Spagnuolo

CURITIBA, Brazil, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Brazilian prosecutors charged ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday with being the "boss" of a vast corruption scheme at state oil company Petrobras, in a major blow to the leftist hero's hopes of a political comeback.

It was the first time that Lula, still Brazil's most popular politician despite corruption accusations against him and his Workers Party, was charged by federal prosecutors for involvement in the political kickbacks scheme at Petroleo Brasileiro, as the company is officially known.

Public Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol told a news conference that Lula will be charged with corruption and money laundering for leading a kickback scheme that caused an estimated 42 billion reais ($12.6 billion) in losses to Petrobras shareholders and tax payers.

"He was the conductor of this criminal orchestra," Dallagnol said during a detailed presentation of the investigation. "The Petrobras graft scheme aimed at keeping the Workers Party in power by criminal means."

Lula's lawyers said prosecutors lacked evidence to back up their accusations which were part of political persecution to stop him running in the 2018 election.

"This Lula-centered farce was trumped up as an affront to the democratic state and intelligence of Brazilian citizens," one of Lula's lawyers, Cristiano Zanin, told reporters in Sao Paulo.

Dallagnol stopped short of saying investigators would seek an arrest order for Lula, who became a hero to many poor Brazilians during his 2003-2010 government.   Continuación...