Brazil police raid company owned by Lula son in corruption probe

Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva looks on during a private meeting with Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian police raided the offices of a company owned by the son of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday as part of a bribery investigation that threatens to drag his family into yet another scandal.

The Federal Police said it was investigating a group of companies that allegedly bribed officials in a tax appeals board of the Finance Ministry to influence its rulings. A police statement said evidence of bribery, extortion and influence trafficking prompted the raid.

One of the companies searched in the dawn raid, LFT Marketing Esportivo, is owned by the former president’s son Luis Claudio. Police officers left the firm’s Sao Paulo offices after two hours carrying seized documents, neighbors said, according to local press reports.

Lula is himself under investigation for influence-trafficking after he left office in 2010 as Brazil’s most popular president. His reputation has been tarnished by a massive kickback scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras that has landed the treasurer of his Workers’ Party in jail and led to the investigation of dozens of his political allies.

The Estado de S.Paulo newspaper reported this month that Lula’s son received a payment from a lobbyist suspected of bribing officials to push for tax breaks for car makers, an allegation unearthed during the investigation into corruption at the tax appeals board.

Luis Claudio’s lawyers said in a statement on Monday that LFT Marketing Esportivo and another company he owns, Touchdown Promoção de Eventos Esportivos, has never had any relation to the tax board.

Six people were arrested in other raids in the cities of Sao Paulo and Brasilia, the country’s capital, and the states of Piaui and Maranhao.

Police investigators said they are investigating tax fraud cases involving 19 billion reais ($4.8 billion) and have identified decisions that have cost state coffers 6 billion reais.

($1 = 3.9041 Brazilian reais)

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Caio Saad; Writing by Anthony Boadle and Christian Plumb