SAO PAULO — Brazil's federal prosecutor's office has asked police to investigate allegations that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was involved in the massive cash-for-votes scheme in Congress that led to the conviction of several of his closest aides.
The prosecutor's office said in a brief statement posted on its website Friday night that its request for a federal police investigation stems from testimony given in September by businessman Marcos Valerio that Silva approved the monthly payout scheme and used cash from it for personal expenses while in office.
Valerio was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison and fined $1.3 million for being what the Supreme Court called the operator of the scheme that gave legislators cash handouts in return for their support of Silva's policies after he took office in 2003.
Phone calls to Silva's office in Sao Paulo went unanswered.
No allegations connected to the corruption case have ever stuck to Silva, who has always denied wrongdoing.
Along with Valerio, the Supreme Court last year convicted Silva's once-powerful former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, of racketeering and of leading the vote-buying scheme in Congress. He was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison. Twenty-two other figures, including politicians, aides, and bankers, were convicted on various charges. Twelve other defendants in the case were absolved of committing any crimes.
Valerio's allegations against Silva represented the first time one of the defendants in the corruption trial has told prosecutors the former leader was involved.
The scandal is known in Brazil as the "mensalao," or big monthly allowance, for the sums of up to $10,000 handed over to politicians. It came to light in 2005. The case has done little to tarnish the reputation of Silva, who left office after two four year terms on Jan. 1, 2011, with an 87 percent approval rating and near-mythical status as Brazil's first working class president and one whose policies lifted millions out of poverty.