October 3, 2015 / 12:53 AM / 4 years ago

Brazil court allows Lula questioning in Petrobras corruption case

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during the inauguration of a hospital care unit at the Buenos Aires’ Jose C. Paz suburb in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September, 9, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Supreme Court authorized the questioning by police of ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a broadening corruption case focused on state-run oil company Petrobras, a representative for the court said on Friday.

The original motion for permission to question Lula as a witness, which was filed last month, said the popular leader “may have benefited” from the political kickback scheme.

Lula may have “secured advantages for himself, for his party ... or for his government by maintaining a base of political support sustained by illicit business” at the company, investigators wrote in the motion.

Prosecutors say there is no investigation into Lula or any evidence tying him to crimes, but they said they think the corruption scheme started with the former president’s chief of staff, Jose Dirceu.

“The people who will be questioned do not bear the status of investigated, but as the motion by the police proposed, the status of informants,” Teori Zavascki, Supreme Court minister, said in his decision.

A representative for Lula in Brazil said the former president “could not be investigated in the Petrobras inquiry because there was no reason for it.”

In the original motion, investigators said it was necessary to question Lula because the probe, and evidence obtained in plea bargain testimony from officials already convicted in the scandal, “reaches the political and partisan nucleus of his government.”

Reporting by Eduardo Simões and Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Chris Reese, Ken Wills and Leslie Adler

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