Brasília: Brazilian prosecutors announced Thursday a probe into alleged influence peddling by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on behalf of scandal-ridden construction giant Odebrecht.
"There is an investigation into possible influence peddling by ex-president Lula with the leaders of other countries on behalf of the construction company Odebrecht," a spokesman for the federal prosecutor`s office in the capital Brasilia said.
The investigation, which drags the once highly popular Lula into Brazil`s ever deepening political and corruption crisis, was launched July 8, but only revealed Thursday.
Lula`s foundation immediately issued a statement saying he had nothing to fear.
"We are calm. The Lula Institute is certain of the transparency and legality of ex-president Lula`s activities," spokesman Jose Chrispiniano said.
Prosecutors announced in May that they were considering the probe.
According to the prosecutor`s office, the alleged influence peddling took place between 2011 and 2014, after Lula left office, having been replaced by his hand-picked successor from the Workers` Party, Dilma Rousseff.
As an ex-president, Lula retained his status as a major world figure and the face of commodity-rich Brazil`s rise to economic power.
Prosecutors allege that he used that clout to land billion-dollar deals for Odebrecht in Latin America and Africa. He is also alleged to have helped persuade the state-owned development bank BNDES to finance the foreign projects.
Brazil`s political and elite business circles have been thrown into commotion by a growing probe into a bribes-and-kickbacks network that saw companies including Odebrecht bribing politically connected executives at state oil giant Petrobras to grant inflated contracts.
Some of the money allegedly went into the Workers` Party campaign coffers.
Rousseff, chairwoman of Petrobras for seven years, has not been directly implicated in the scandal but there are mounting calls for her resignation or impeachment.