The man who spent two decades as the right arm of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva masterminded the vast corruption scheme that blew up in 2005, Attorney General Roberto Gurgel said here Friday on the second day of Brazil's "trial of the century."

Jose Dirceu, then serving as Lula's chief of staff, "devised and directed" the payment of bribes to dozens of lawmakers, Gurgel told the Supreme Court.

Dirceu and 37 other people, including two former Cabinet ministers and erstwhile congresspersons, are facing charges that range from money laundering and tax evasion to fraud and criminal conspiracy.

"One can say without risk of committing any mistake that Jose Dirceu was the mentor, was the one who devised the entire illicit system and who commanded the actions of the other defendants," the attorney general said.

At Lula's side from the founding of the Workers Party, or PT, in the early 1980s, Dirceu managed the former union leader's successful 2002 presidential campaign and became his top aide in office.

Dirceu, once seen as the natural successor to Lula, was forced to resign his post as chief of staff in the summer of 2005 after lawmaker Roberto Jefferson accused the PT of having bribed legislators of other parties to build the congressional majority that the government failed to obtain at the polls in 2002.

The scandal didn't stop Lula from winning a second four-year term in 2006 and his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff, prevailed in the 2010 presidential contest. EFE