Brazil's Lula says graft charges aim to destroy him politically

Lula's fall has been dramatic

SAO PAULO – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vehemently denied charges of corruption and money laundering in a lengthy speech on Thursday in which he challenged federal prosecutors to back up their accusations with evidence. The development comes two weeks after Dilma Rousseff, his political protege, was removed from office over a separate scandal.

The charges announced Wednesday are in connection with a sprawling corruption investigation at state-run oil giant Petrobras.

In addition to Lula da Silva and his wife, six others are accused and tied to the construction firm, the news agency said.

Prosecutors on Wednesday filed charges against Lula and his wife, Marisa Leticia, over an alleged corruption scheme at state oil company Petrobras.

Ms Rousseff was dismissed by the Senate last month after an impeachment trial that found her guilty of manipulating the budget. "This was a scheme of the government and the political party".

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The charges could be a devastating blow for the charismatic former union leader known simply as Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and transformed his country with generous social programs that helped tens of millions of Brazilians escape poverty.

The investigation is hugely popular among Brazilians fed up with runaway corruption, and the fallout has been widespread.

Marcelo Odebrecht, the former chief executive of the company that bears with family's name, was sentenced in March to 19 years in jail for bribery, money laundering and organized crime in the Petrobras kickback scandal.

Lula is charged with hiding ownership of a luxury flat in the seaside town of Guaruja, which was allegedly given to him and then renovated by one of the construction companies linked...

However, she has sparked anger with her bid to appoint Lula as her chief of staff, in apparent bid to grant him immunity and protect him from the Petrobras probe.

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Last month, police initiated the case against Lula, saying that he'd received benefits with the value of 2.4 million reals or about $743,000.

He also was key in winning hosting rights to the 2014 World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which finished on August 21 - South America's first.

A conviction would dash Lula's hopes of running for a third term in office in the 2018 elections.

Even the Workers' Party, which dominated Brazilian politics for 13 years, is now in peril.

Previously, Lula was charged with attempting to obstruct investigation in the same case.

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