Thursday 14 December 2017

Brazil's ex-president Silva gives evidence for five hours in corruption probe

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is greeted by supporters at the Federal Justice building in Curitiba (AP)
Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is greeted by supporters at the Federal Justice building in Curitiba (AP)

Brazilian former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has given evidence for five hours in a corruption case against him, coming face-to-face for the first time with the federal judge overseeing a mammoth investigation.

Globo News showed images of Silva's car and police escort leaving the courthouse after nightfall.

The hearing was closed to the press and not broadcast live, two of the many measures taken by Judge Sergio Moro and authorities in the south-eastern city of Curitiba amid concerns of violence.

Thousands of supporters - both of Silva and Judge Moro - were separated by a few miles, and hundreds of police in riot gear controlled several blocks around the federal courthouse.

Silva, president between 2003 and 2010, was giving evidence about allegations that he received a beachfront apartment as a kickback from construction company OAS. Prosecutors also allege OAS did repairs to the apartment and paid to store Silva's belongings.

The former president denies the charges, along with those related to several other cases of corruption against him.

His evidence came after several attempts by his defence team to postpone the hearing. The last appeal, to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice was denied about an hour before his evidence began.

Silva's defence team argued it needed more time to analyse the case. His opponents countered that it was an excuse to prolong the matter. The defence has also said it wants to call more than 80 witnesses.

Silva, who Brazilians simply call Lula, has reason to drag the process out. He has signalled his interest in running for president in 2018, and leads in polls. He would be ineligible if he should be convicted and the conviction was upheld on appeal.

Since it was launched in March 2014, the investigation centred on state oil company Petrobras has led to the convictions of dozens of leading politicians and business executives.

Many more are being investigated in the kickback scheme, which prosecutors say involved more than 3 billion dollars in bribes over more than a decade. The probe has also spread beyond Brazil to several other Latin American countries.

AP

Press Association

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