A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be tried over corruption and money laundering charges in connection with a multi-billion dollar scheme at the state oil company, Petrobras. Lula, who has already been charged for obstructing the probe, denied any wrongdoing, adding that the allegations are a political smear campaign against him.
Prosecutors accuse that the politicians and officials, who were taking orders from Lula, handed overpriced contracts with Petrobras in return for bribes, reports the BBC. Judge Sergio Moro said that there was “sufficient evidence,” which shows Lula’s involvement in the graft.
Lula’s lawyers later sent out an email note calling Moro an “impartial” judge, who has launched a politically motivated “witch hunt” on the former leader, writes Reuters. Tuesday’s verdict comes as a major setback for Lula, who nurtures the hopes of making a political comeback in 2018 elections. Experts believe that the ruling could also shatter any hopes that the Workers’ Party had of returning to power.
Brazil has been suffering an intense political and economic crisis, with a number of its leaders embroiled in various scandals, notes The Guardian. Last month, former president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and ejected from office over charges of manipulating budget figures.