Lula passport seized 'to avoid repeat of Nadine affair?'
ROME – Magistrates who prevented Ignacio Lula da Silva attending an FAO conference in Africa last week-end suspected the trip may have heralded an attempt by the former Brazilian president to avoid serving a prison term just as Peruvian former first lady Nadine Heredia's links to the FAO were seens as an attempt to prevent her going to jail, diplomatic sources say.
Brazilian magistrates ordered Lula to hand in his passport Thursday meaning he could not accept an invitation by the FAO to attend at the expense of the UN agency a conference in Addis Abbaba, the Ethiopian capital, where FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva arrived Friday after leaving FAO headquarters in Rome. The FAO spokesman Enrique Yeves issued a statement regretting that Lula had not been allowed to make a contribution to the debate on world hunger. Last week Lula lost an appeal against a conviction for corruption and had his sentence increased to 12 years.
The magistrates were evidently suspicious of the trip after Brazilian Graziano, who was a minister in the first Lula government in Brazil, caused a storm by offering Nadine a job in late 2016 as head of the FAO liason office in Geneva when she was under investigation on charges of illegally importing dlrs 150 million from the Brazilian company Oderbracht to help her husband’s election campaign in Peru, a gift from the Brazilian Workers’ Party formerly headed by Lula.
The appointment of Nadine to the FAO set off a furore and Graziano was forced to let her go. She is currently serving an 18 month preventive detention sentence with her husband in Lima while awaiting trial.
Also raising Brazilian magistrates’ suspicions were reports that Lula and former Brazilian president Roussef were considering seeking political asylum in Uruguay, where the Uruguayan President has said publicly he would offer them asylum.
A football club in Uruguay that receives funding from the FAO offered one of Lula’s sons a job as a coach in what was seen as a move preparing for the family to skip out to Uruguay. The deal was brokered by the talent scout son of Mario Lubetkin, Graziano’s chef de cabinet at the FAO, a Uruguayan, but fell through after it was made public by the Italian press.
While it is unlikely that Lula would contemplate political asylum in Ethiopia he could have flown to Uruguay from Addis.
Arrangements for the FAO to use donor funds to pay for Lula to travel to Addis and for his hotel bill there would have been made by Fernando Servan, the Peruvian acting head of human resources at FAO whose meteoric rise to influence owed much to his friendship with Nadine when she was an FAO goodwill ambassador, diplomatic sources say.