Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was questioned by the federal authorities while his house raided as part of a major fraud inquiry into the state oil company Petrobras.
The evidence against the former president brought the corruption investigation closer to President Rousseff, who is fighting off impeachment for allegedly breaking budget rules, weakening her efforts to pull the economy out of a deepening downturn.
“In this case we are talking about a criminal organisation within the federal government, which exploited funds from Petrobras and other companies to finance political campaigns, and for personal gain,” said Prosecutor, Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima.
There is evidence that the crimes enriched him and financed electoral campaigns and the treasury of his political group.
Police said they had evidence that Lula received illicit benefits from kickbacks at the state oil company, Petrobras, in the form of payments and luxury real estate.
“Ex-president Lula, besides being party leader, was the one ultimately responsible for the decision on who would be the director at Petrobras and was one of the main beneficiaries of these crimes,” said a police statement on his detention.
Protests broke out among rival factions at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo where da Silva was held for questioning as well as in front of his apartment building in Sao Bernardo do Campo.
Lula’s house in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, was raided early on Friday. The headquarters of his institute in Sao Paulo was also targeted, as was his wife, Marisa and sons.
There was no comment from Lula, who is yet to be charged. His foundation said in a statement that his detention was “an aggression against the rule of law and Brazilian society.”