A São Paulo state prosecutor is investigating a luxury beachfront apartment believed to belong to former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. It is believed that efforts were made to conceal the identity of the apartment’s owner, which could point to money laundering. The investigated apartment, in the Solaris building in the beach city of Guarujá, is a triplex with two swimming pools and a private elevator. During his reelection campaign in 2006, Lula declared that he merely possessed a stake in a cooperative called Bancoop worth 47,000 reais. This cooperative, organized by members of a banking union, had the aim of pooling money to construct buildings at a lower cost. Eventually, some of the investments of this cooperative, including the Solaris building, were taken over by the OAS construction company, which has been implicated in the Petrobras corruption scandal.
It is believed that the triplex apartment was renovated, at the cost of over 700,000 reais, by OAS, which the police suspects made illegal campaign contributions and paid bribes to obtain lucrative fraudulent contracts with the state-owned oil company Petrobras. As part of the “Car Wash” (Lava Jato) corruption probe, Leo Pinheiro, the owner of OAS, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for corruption and money laundering, among other charges. He, along with the former president and his wife, have been called in to testify regarding the apartment. Lula has denied any impropriety and recently stated that “there is no soul alive more honest than I.”
All of the apartments in the same building are also being investigated in parallel by the federal police as part of Operation Car Wash. It is believed that they may be related to offshore accounts used to transmit bribes and kick-backs from the corruption at Petrobras and may be owned by relatives of high-ranking officials from the ruling Worker’s Party (PT), such as the wife and children of Joao Vaccari Neto, the party’s former treasurer, who has already been arrested during a previous phase of the Car Wash Operation. He was the president of Bancoop. It is believed that this cooperative siphoned off up to $100 million reais to make illegal campaign contributions for the Worker’s Party.