Brazil's Lula in new money laundering accusation

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Brazil's jailed ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's legal troubles mounted Monday as he was accused by the Sao Paulo public prosecutor's office of money laundering in his dealings with Equatorial Guinea.

"Lula used his international prestige to influence decisions made by Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang (Nguema) to benefit Brazilian group ARG in the African country," the public prosecutor's office said in a statement.

In return, Lula is believed to have received one million reais ($250,000) in bribes from September 2011 to July 2012 under the guise of donations to his charitable Lula Institute.

The alleged events happened after his 2003-10 presidency.

The Lula Institute rejected the accusations saying all its "donations received... are legal, duly declared... and used for the institute's activities, without any compensation."

According to the prosecutor, an executive at civil construction company ARG "asked the ex-president to play the role of intermediary" with Obiang to facilitate the company's business dealings in Equatorial Guinea, notably road construction.

Lula is already serving a 12-year corruption sentence for having accepted a seaside apartment as a bribe from another Brazilian company, BTP, in return for public works contracts.

The 73-year-old is the subject of five other corruption and money laundering investigations but insists he is innocent of all charges.

On Friday, he and his successor as president, and fellow Workers Party member, Dilma Rousseff, were accused of receiving bribes with money diverted from state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

They have been accused of conspiring to form a de facto criminal organization.

Lula's lawyers branded the charges as "unprecedented political persecution."

Obiang, 76, has been accused of brutal repression of his opponents as well as election fraud and corruption.

He seized power from his uncle in a 1979 military coup and has ruled the country ever since.

In 2016, he won a fifth seven-year presidential term with nearly 94 percent of the vote.

Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producers, but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.

Two months ago, Brazilian police seized more than $16 million in cash and luxury items from a delegation accompanying Obiang's son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang, as he arrived in Brazil to undergo a medical procedure.