In a room full of ardent supporters Thursday, Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva extolled the virtues of his past public service, rambling about his achievements in the face of recent corruption charges. Maintaining his innocence, he dared prosecutors to press ahead.
“Prove any corruption and I will walk to go to jail,” he said.
Brazilian prosecutors on Wednesday presented corruption charges against Lula da Silva and his wife, Marisa Leticia da Silva, according to state-run news agency Agencia Brasil.
The charges stem from the Operation Car Wash money laundering investigation.
Prosecutors allege the former president benefited from “illicit advances in connection with a renovation of a triplex” in a beach town near Sao Paulo.
The investigation extends to the president of the Lula Institute, Paulo Okamoto, and Leo Pinheiro, president of OAS, a construction company heavily investigated under Operation Car Wash.
Lula da Silva sent out a series of tweets after the charges, calling them “fiction” and claiming he had “been a victim of extremely serious illegalities,” according to the ex-president’s defense.
“I respect institutions, I respect the law,” he added at his press conference Thursday. “I will give as many testimonies as I need to. Call me and I will be there because the only thing that I am proud of is that I earned the right to walk with my head held up high in this country.”
In addition to Lula da Silva and his wife, six others are accused and tied to the construction firm, the news agency said.
According to Agencia Brasil, officilas are “also investigating whether works carried out by Odebrecht on a farm often visited by Lula’s family in Atibaia, Sao Paulo, came from illicit advantages benefiting him.”
Odebrecht is another construction company implicated under Operation Car Wash.
Lula da Silva, 65, was inaugurated as Brazil’s president in 2003 and handily won his bid for a second term.
He finished his second term in January 2011 with a 90% approval rating, just months before it was announced he would undergo chemotherapy for a malignant tumor in his larynx. His cancer was found to be in complete remission in February 2012.
When the former president was questioned by police in March over allegations of corruption, he strongly denied them. The same day he was questioned, authorities searched his home, the Lula Institute and his son’s home, among other locations.
Police at the time said the searches were part of a broader inquiry into corruption and money laundering tied to Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras.
Lula da Silva said he hopes the latest allegations will be the last in what he considers a political witch hunt, one that’s already forced Brazilian House Speaker Eduardo Cunha and President Dilma Rousseff out of the office.
“This novel is coming to an end,” Lula da Silva said. “They have charged Cunha, they have gone after Dilma and now they need to conclude this novel. Who is the criminal? Let’s give an end to this novel. Let’s end with the political life of Lula.”