Brazil police include Lula in investigation of auto sector bills

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) talks during a news conference after a meeting with Rio de Janeiro's Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s federal police have included former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in an investigation into the possible use of bribes to influence the passage of legislation benefiting the auto sector, a court document showed on Thursday.

Police Chief Marlon Oliveira Cajado dos Santos wrote in the document that Lula and other former politicians were under investigation to see if they were “indeed corrupted and part of this criminal organization,” or if they were actually victims of influence peddling.

The investigation is part of a probe known as “Operation Zealots” that originally looked into the bribing of lower-level tax collectors. It is separate from the better-known investigation into price-fixing and political kickbacks at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Lula testified as a witness for a lobbyist accused of paying bribes to alter the legislation last month. His institute has denied any irregularities in the 2009 and 2010 bills, which it says created tens of thousands of jobs.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn