BRASILIA. – Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison for his involvement in a corruption ring that embezzled billions of dollars from state oil company Petrobras Brasileiro, official sources said on Wednesday.
Federal Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting $1,2 million worth of bribes from engineering firm OAS SA. The company spent the money refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his help in winning contracts with Petroleo Brasileiro.
“The condemned received an illicit benefit due to his position as president of the Republic . . . the responsibility of a president is enormous and therefore, so is his guilt in the practice of crimes,” wrote Moro in his decision.
However, the judge avoided sentencing Lula to immediate prison, allowing him to remain free while his appeal is heard. Brazil’s prosecutor-general had earlier charged Lula on the grounds that the apartment was bought and remodelled for him by OAS SA in exchange for political favours.
However, while Moro found the former president guilty in the case of the apartment, he absolved him of blame in the storage of his belongings.
In a testimony given to Moro in May, Lula said that he “never had the intention of buying” the apartment and that his wife, Marisa Leticia, had at one time been interested in buying a small apartment in the same building.
At the end of May, the Workers’ Party stated that any condemnation of Lula would be an attempt to stop him from running for president in the 2018 elections.
For months now, Lula, who served as Brazilian president from 2003 to 2011, has been the clear favourite among Brazilians to become the next president under all scenarios.
However, as part of the sentence, Moro also banned Lula from running for or occupying any public office for 19 years. This decision will only stand if Lula is found guilty on appeal to a higher court.
The reactions to Lula’s sentencing were varied. The Brazilian stock exchange had risen by 1.5 percent as markets seemed to be buoyed by the news. Lula and his Workers’ Party, while in government, sought to improve salaries, workers’ rights and labour regulations. - Xinhua/HR.