Brazil’s former national president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known widely as “Lula”, on Wednesday was convicted of corruption linked to the Petrobras scandal and sentenced to nine-and-a-half years jail time.
Lula, who served two terms as president, was found guilty by Judge Sergio Moro of taking the equivalent of $1.2m in bribes from engineering firm OAS in return for helping the company get overpriced contracts with the state oil firm Petrobras.
The bribes were the estimated value of free refurbishments made to a beachfront apartment.
Lula is the highest-profile casualty yet of the Petrobras affair in which the same pattern of bribes-for-inflated-contracts repeated itself over and over to the tune of multiple billions.
Petrobras, with its huge offshore oil interests, is a major driver in the Brazilian economy.
The scandal’s repercussions have seen the downfall of numerous executives at Petrobras and contractor firms plus top politicians.
Brazilian society has been reeling from the ever-expanding scandal since it began being exposed three years ago.
Lula enjoyed huge popularity when in office from 2003-2011 as leader of the left-wing Workers Party. A working-class man of the people, and former union leader he presided over great social reform policies that closed somewhat the country’s gross economic inequalities.
He had been contemplating a return to the national political fray but if this conviction stands that will be impossible.
His supporters, including numerous diehards, have painted his prosecution as a politically motivated witch hunt.
Lula will appeal the verdict and can remain free while he does so.
His successor as president Dilma Rousseff was ousted by impeachment on unrelated corruption charges to do with manipulating budget figures.
And the current occupier of the hot seat, Michel Temer, faces calls for his own impeachment over allegations, again unrelated to Petrobras, that he plotted to take bribes from meatpacking giant JBS.