A major corruption case unfolding before Brazil's Supreme Court once again cast a shadow over President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, accused by one of the convicted defendants of having been behind it all and of personally profiting from it.
The name of Lula, who was not among the 36 accused in the so-called "trial of the century" for offenses that occurred during his first term in office, was associated with the scandal once more after the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper published Tuesday a statement by publicist Marcos Valerio Fernandes, sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The daily said it had obtained a statement that Fernandes made to prosecutors saying that Lula not only "knew all about it" but that he also backed it and derived personal profits from the corruption.
Estado de Sao Paulo cited Fernandes as saying that the ruling Workers Party, or PT, paid his legal fees from the trial, which came to 4 million reais ($2 million).
The case goes back to the summer of 2005, when 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 or from helping his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff, to prevail in the 2010 presidential contest.
The daily cited Fernandes as saying he met with Lula's then-chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, and PT treasurer Delubio Soares - both also convicted - and that on at least one occasion he was with the president, who "gave him the OK for the negotiations."
The story had immediate repercussions in Paris where Lula met with Rousseff, who began a state visit to France on Tuesday and took part in a forum organized by the Lula Institute.
"That's a lie," Lula said when questioned by Brazilian media as he left the forum.
Meanwhile Rousseff, at a joint press conference with her French counterpart, Francois Hollande, described the accusation as "regrettable."
Brazil's opposition, however, demanded an "immediate investigation" into Lula's responsibility in the matter. EFE