Former president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sentenced to nine years and six months over corruption charges in the Operation Car Wash investigations.
Lula was condemned for passive corruption crimes and money laundering, but won’t serve time in prison, at least for now. Judge Sergio Moro concluded that Lula received about US$ 1.15 million in bribes.
The ruling could bar him from running for president in the upcoming 2018 elections, despite having the highest approval ratings of all candidates. A DataFolha poll in April showed that Judge Moro would be tied with Lula in a possible second round of elections.
Moro also acquitted the former president for “imputations of corruption and money laundering involving the storage of presidential stock for lack of sufficient proof of materiality.”
In this case, the suspicion against the former president was that he had allegedly received kickbacks from three contracts between the contractor OAS and Petrobras.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, the amount would have been passed on to Lula through an apartment and a payment for the storage of the company’s assets between 2011 and 2016, as gifts received when he was president.
Valeska Teixeira Zanin Martin, a lead lawyer in Lula’s defense team, said evidence “proves definitely that Lula could not have been given a bribe.” The lawyer argued that bank and real estate records prove Lula’s innocence.
The three-story beach apartment couldn’t have been given to Lula as a bribe, as prosecutors allege, because it is registered in the name of OAS with financial rights in a federal bank account.
Zanin Martin said that if the company sold the apartment, the money trail would have to appear in the federal bank transactions, where records prove that Lula did not acquire the property.
Lula’s defense team presented last month a final appeal against the charges, saying they didn’t have any evidence against him.
Analyst Andre Vieira said that the decision is likely politically motivated and intended to make him ineligible for the 2018 presidential election.
Lula, leader of the Worker’s Party, can appeal to a federal court and could face time in prison if the judge rules he poses a flight risk or has a concern that the defendant could intimidate witnesses.
If his appeal is not accepted, he could seek an injunction from the Supreme Court. In the case that none go forward, it would bar Lula from running for any public office for eight years and could impose prison or house arrest.
Following the conviction and sentencing of Lula on corruption charges as part of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation, Transparency International Chair José Ugaz said:
“The conviction of former President Lula is a significant sign that the rule of law is working in Brazil and that there is no impunity, even for the powerful.
“Lula is not the only high-level politician who is the focus of corruption investigations. The current president, Michel Temer, who is from the opposite end of the political spectrum, is also facing corruption charges, as is Senator Aécio Neves, who ran against former president Dilma Rousseff in the last presidential elections.
“The Brazilian Congress and the Supreme Court will also have to decide on these two cases. They must act with impartiality and there must be no impunity.
“The Lava Jato scandal has touched politicians of all parties and Brazil’s most powerful businesspeople. It is not surprising the Lava Jato investigators and judges are now facing attacks from all sides.
“This is proof that corruption does not distinguish between ideologies or political parties. Transparency International calls for guarantees that the investigations can proceed and that all judicial processes remain independent and free from interference from any political party.”
The Lava Jato investigation is focussed on the deals made by politicians and businesspeople in exchange for contracts. Transparency International honored the Lava Jato team with its 2016 Anti-Corruption Award for its courageous and dedicated work in the fight against corruption.
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