Brazilian prosecutors and a top anti-corruption judge collaborated to convict left-wing icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on corruption charges to prevent him from contesting the 2018 election, an investigative news outlet reported Sunday.
Citing leaked documents, The Intercept, co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, said an anonymous source had provided material, including private chats, audio recordings, videos, and photos, that show “serious wrongdoing, unethical behavior, and systematic deceit.”
Among the explosive revelations, The Intercept said prosecutors in a massive, yearslong anti-corruption probe known as “Operation Car Wash” had expressed “serious doubts whether there was sufficient evidence to establish (former president) Lula’s guilt.”
Justice Minister Sergio Moro was the anti-corruption judge who handed Lula his first conviction in 2017, which prevented him from running in a presidential election he was widely expected to win.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who said during his campaign that he hoped Lula would “rot in prison,” later made Moro part of his cabinet.
Lula won sweeping electoral victories in his presidential campaigns in 2002 and 2006, and left office in 2011 with an 87 percent approval rating. Even after his imprisonment, the former president lead in every major election poll until he was ultimately barred from the race.
Greenwald, who was part of the team that first interviewed Edward Snowden in 2013, said on Twitter the leak was “one of the largest & most important in years.”
1/ EXCLUSIVE: We obtained one of the largest & most important archives of leaked material in years: containing the secret chats, audios, videos & documents of the prosecutors & Judge – now Bolsonaro's Justice Minister, Sergio Moro – who imprisoned Lula. It shows vast wrongdoing. pic.twitter.com/opSgTrzQ77
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 9, 2019
This is “just the very beginning of what we intend to reveal from this massive archive about him (Moro) & the prosecutors with whom he unethically worked,” Greenwald tweeted.
The claims come at a bad time for Bolsonaro who is already facing mounting opposition less than six months into his term, as Latin America’s biggest economy teeters on the edge of recession and his signature pension reform remains stuck in a hostile Congress.
Prosecutors Doubted Evidence
Lula, who led Brazil through a historic boom from 2003 to 2010, has denied all the corruption charges against him, arguing from the beginning that they were politically motivated to prevent him from competing in the elections.
He is serving a reduced jail term of eight years and 10 months after being convicted by Moro of accepting a seaside apartment as a bribe for helping the OAS construction company get lucrative deals with state oil firm Petrobras.
While prosecutors were “publicly boasting about the strength of the evidence against Lula” during the legal proceedings, they were “internally admitting major doubts,” The Intercept said.
In a group Telegram chat with his colleagues in September, lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol conceded that he was “apprehensive about the apartment story” and the connection to Petrobras.
While behind bars, Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) registered him as their presidential candidate in August 2018 – two months before the election. An electoral court barred him two weeks later.
A second conviction was handed down in February for which he was sentenced to almost 13 years.
Fernando Haddad, the PT’s election candidate who lost to Bolsonaro, said on Twitter “we could be facing the biggest institutional scandal in the history of the republic.”
“The truth will prevail” was posted on Lula’s Twitter account above a link to The Intercept stories.
I've read these stories twice now and – there's no doubt – it's an awful day for reputation of Car Wash probe & its protagonists
I have questions, including about legality of Moro's apparent coordination w/ prosecutors -judges in Brazil play different role than in US… https://t.co/uR6ZPeTvSl
— Brian Winter (@BrazilBrian) June 10, 2019
The leaked material also shows “Car Wash prosecutors spoke openly of their desire to prevent the PT from winning the election and took steps to carry out that agenda,” The Intercept said.
“Moro secretly and unethically collaborated with the Car Wash prosecutors to help design the case against Lula … only for him to then pretend to be its neutral adjudicator.”
In response to The Intercept reports, Moro defended his actions as judge in the ongoing Car Wash probe and said the material obtained through the “criminal invasion of prosecutors’ cell phones” had been “taken out of context.”
“Careful reading reveals that there is nothing there despite the sensational material,” Moro claimed on Twitter.
The Car Wash task force confirmed its investigators had been hacked, but said it did not know the extent of the breach.