Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known throughout Brazil simply as “Lula,” was sentenced yesterday to nearly ten years in prison after Judge Sergio Moro delivered a verdict finding Lula guilty of corruption and money laundering. The charges stemmed from allegations Lula and his wife illegally traded just over $1 million in improvements and expenses to a beachfront apartment in exchange for lucrative construction contracts with state-controlled oil company Petrobras. Lula had vehemently denied ever wanting or owning the apartment in question, and labeled the allegations a farce.
The allegations are tied to the broader probe into Petrobras and Operação Lava Jato, which involved companies overcharging Petrobas and then channeling excess profits to politicians. The scandal culminated in the impeachment of former Brazilian president Dilma Roussef, Lula’s handpicked successor.
Lula—a former steel working and union organizer who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and presided over a period of robust economic growth and increased relevancy on the world stage—remains popular in Brazil. He had pledged to once again run for president if cleared of the charges, and despite the allegations against him and his party, has been leading in recent election polls.
In his verdict, Judge Moro stated that the former president—whose testimony in Curitiba was accompanied by large crowds gathered outside the court and followed by a campaign-style rally—had sought to intimidate the court. Such intimidation, Moro noted, could be grounds for ordering Lula’s immediate arrest. Supporters, however, are quick to point out what they see as illegitimate interference in the electoral process in a country that has suffered in the past under brutal dictatorship. For his part, Lula, through his lawyers, has pledged to appeal.
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