By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – In a surprising turn of events, federal judge Sergio Moro, sentenced Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to nine years and six months in prison for passive corruption and money laundering on Wednesday, July 12th.
The former leader is charged with accepting million-dollar renovations on a beachfront apartment from large construction and engineering firms in exchange for ‘advantages’ in public contracts, including those with state-owned oil giant Petrobras.
“The transfer [ownership] of the apartment and the renovations, as well as the payment of storage costs, would represent an undue advantage in a corroboration of corruption and strategies used for this transfer and payment would constitute a money laundering offense,” read the verdict handed down by Moro.
Moro also noted Lula’s part the corruption scheme set by Petrobras directors. “Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had a relevant role in the criminal scheme, as he was responsible for naming the directors to Petrobras’ Board of Directors and the requests of the federal government were granted. He admitted in his interrogation that he was responsible for giving the last word on the nominations,” stated the document.
As news of the sentencing of one of the most popular politicians in Brazilian history spread, supporters came to the former president’s defense.
In a speech on the floor of the Senate, PT (Workers Party) national president, Senator Gleisi Hoffmann claimed that Lula’s conviction is political, with no proof of wrongdoing and has the objective of taking the former leader out of the 2018 Presidential Race.
“You do not have proof that this apartment belongs to Lula,” said Hoffmann sending a message to Moro. “If you want to take Lula out of politics, be decent, be brave, nominate a candidate and fight at the polls,” she added.
Opposition leaders also spoke up about the conviction. “It [conviction] means the strengthening of the fight against corruption and impunity. And it is a lesson for the Brazilian citizen to show the end of a period when the powerful did not face justice,” said opposition Congressional leader Efraim Filho.
In addition to nine and a half years in prison, Moro’s sentence prohibits Lula from holding public office or civil service for nineteen years.
Moro, one of the leading judges in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) Operation, however, did state that due to the fact that the individual once was the leader of the country, Lula would be able to remain free until his appeal is heard and a final verdict is given.