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Lula da Silva slams Brazil's Petrobras corruption probe; says he has nothing to hide

No charges have been filed against former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, but prosecutors have alleged bribery and embezzlement to the tune of more than $2 billion in one of Brazil's biggest corruption scandals.

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Brazil: Operation Car Wash has dirt on Lula

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reacted defiantly after being questioned by police for more than three hours in connection with a massive corruption scandal unfolding in Brazil.

"If they wanted to hear from me, they only had to call and I would have gone, because I owe nothing to anyone and fear nothing," he said at a news conference after his release.

"It would have been so simple to invite me to testify. (The judge) did not need to send police to my house and the house of my sons," he said. "They preferred to show power, arrogance, to make a show."

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Präsident von Brasilien

Silva at a press conference after being released by police

The 70-year-old Silva slammed the prosecutor's decision to come and take him from his house, which he said, showed "lack of democratic respect" and "judicial authoritarianism."

Public prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima fired back saying officials are just following leads in a case they say involves bribery and embezzlement in excess of $2 billion in connection with contracts for Petrobras, the national oil company.

"No one is exempt from investigation in this country," he said. "Anyone in Brazil is subject to be investigated when there are indications of a crime."

A massive sweep

Some 200 federal police and 30 auditors swept across three states on Friday, dishing out 33 warrants for search and seizure and 11 for detention for questioning.

No charges were filed against Silva, but he was questioned over alleged "favors" received from corrupt construction companies implicated in the Petrobras kickbacks scheme, according to prosecutors.

Brasilien Sao Bernardo do Campo Apartment Lula da Silva

Demonstrators protest in front of apartment of former president Silva

In particular prosecutors are focusing on a luxury seaside apartment and a country house they say were given to Silva as bribes. Silva denies owning the properties.

Silva left office in 2010 as one of the most popular presidents in Brazil's history. He was replaced by his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff, who has been beset with her own political and legal problems. She is being impeached, accused of using pension funds to fill in a budget gap - charges she denies.

Silva and Worker's Party President Rui Falcao insist the probes engulfing the current and past presidents are political witch hunts aimed at the ruling Workers' Party.

"It's not about combating corruption," Falcao said, "but simply to hit the Workers' Party, President Lula and the government of President Dilma."

But not everyone under investigation is affiliated with the Workers' Party. Indeed, corruption charges against Eduardo Cunha, a top opposition figure and speaker of the lower house of Congress, have been green-lighted by Brazil's Supreme Court.

bik/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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