Brazil’s Federal Police on Tuesday charged Jose Dirceu, former chief of staff to former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, with four crimes related to his alleged involvement in bribery and bid-rigging at Petrobras and other state-run companies.
Dirceu, who has been held since Aug 3 at a jail in Curitiba, Brazil under suspicion of involvement in Brazil’s largest-ever corruption scandal, was charged with racketeering, receiving bribes, fraud and money laundering, the Federal Police press office said.
Dirceu is the most senior member of Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party to be arrested in the scandal so far. The charges bring the scandal uncomfortably close to Lula, to whom he was chief political adviser.
It could also put pressure on current President Dilma Rousseff, who many consider a Dirceu protégé. She succeeded him as Lula’s chief of staff and was chairwoman of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as Petrobras is known, when much of the alleged corruption took place.
Police and prosecutors believe Dirceu was at the center of a scheme to help a cartel of construction and engineering companies fix tenders for refineries, power plants and other giant projects in exchange for bribes, political campaign contributions and other kickbacks.
When arrested, Dirceu was already under house arrest for his conviction in a vote-buying scandal during Lula’s first term in office. That scandal forced him to resign his post as Lula’s chief of staff in 2005.