March 9, 2016 / 10:30 PM / 2 years ago

Lula could join Brazilian government if he wants, minister says

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could join Brazil’s government if he wishes, the minister in charge of legislative affairs, Ricardo Berzoini, said on Wednesday, a move that would give him some protection from prosecution.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gives a statement to the media after being detained for questioning in a federal investigation of a bribery and money laundering scheme in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Lula was briefly detained for questioning by police on Friday, after investigators said they had evidence he was among the main political beneficiaries of a kickback scheme at state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro, commonly known as Petrobras.

Brazilian media reported on Wednesday that members of the ruling Workers Party (PT) were pressuring Rousseff to offer Lula a ministerial portfolio in President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet that would shield him from possible detention.

If Lula were appointed to a ministry, he could only be tried in the Supreme Court, placing him out of the reach of the judge in Curitiba pursuing the investigation into kickbacks at Petrobras.

“The ball is in his court,” Berzoini told Reuters. “The government is good with it. Which government would not want to have Pele on the field,” he said, comparing Lula to the legendary Brazilian football player.

According to two sources close to the former president, he is reluctant to join the government but pressure from the Workers Party is having some effect.

“The best chance that he has is to accept a ministry and for the trial to go to the Supreme Court so he receives a fair hearing,” said one source close to the former president.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Daniel; Editing by Alan Crosby

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