SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the former chief executive of investment bank Grupo BTG Pactual SA will stand trial for obstruction of justice, documents from a federal court in Brasilia showed on Friday.
Lula was previously under investigation in various jurisdictions in a sprawling corruption probe focused on state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) but is now officially a defendant.
The case dates to last November, when former Senator Delcidio do Amaral and Andre Esteves, the founder and former CEO of BTG Pactual, were arrested for allegedly trying to stop a jailed former Petrobras executive from collaborating with Brazil’s largest-ever corruption investigation.
The executive’s son recorded Amaral, who is collaborating now with prosecutors himself for a lightened sentence, saying judges could be influenced into freeing his father and that Esteves was willing to pay for his silence.
The case had previously been secret, and less is known about Lula’s alleged involvement in that incident.
Lula’s lawyers said in a statement that they had not been notified of the court’s decision but intended to prove his innocence.
BTG Pactual declined to comment. Esteves’s lawyer Sepúlveda Pertence said, “The judge will review our defense and decide if it’s a case for acquittal or even removing him as a defendant. We’re convinced our client has not committed any illegal acts and there is no fair reason for a criminal case.”
Lula has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, though prosecutors say the multibillion-dollar graft scheme originated during his 2003-2011 presidency and continued during the presidency of his chosen successor, suspended President Dilma Rousseff.
Brazil’s largest engineering companies are accused of overcharging Petrobras for work and passing on kickbacks to executives and politicians. They are also being investigated for graft on venues for the 2014 World Cup and upcoming Olympics, events awarded to Brazil under Lula.
On Thursday, Lula’s lawyers petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the grounds his rights had been violated in a separate corruption investigation under a different judge spear heading the Operation Car Wash corruption investigation from the southern city of Curitiba.
The U.N. Human Rights Office confirmed the petition had been received and would be examined to see if it meets the criteria for registration. The process could take at least two years.
Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Daniel Flynn