By George Utley, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – José Dirceu, the former Chief of Staff to ex-President Lula da Silva’s government imprisoned on corruption charges in the landmark “mensalão” case conviction, has been granted “work release” from the prison. As of last week, the former minister will work in a lawyer’s office under a scheme designed to reintegrate convicted criminals into wider society.

Jose Dirceu, convicted of corruption in the mensalão case, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Lula’s former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, convicted of corruption in the mensalão case, image recreation.

Dirceu has been serving a seven year and eleven month sentence at the Papuda prison complex in Brasília since November 15th, for his leading involvement in the mensalão scandal. Last week he was transferred to the Penitentiary Center for Progression (CPP), which houses inmates authorised by the courts to work out of jail.

The transfer was approved at the Court of Penal Executions by Judge Leila Cury, overturning a decision of the recently retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (STF), Joaquim Barbosa.

Dirceu will work in the office of lawyer José Gerardo Grossi, where he will be employed to rearrange and digitize the library from 9AM to 6PM per day, on a salary of R$2,100 per month. The former minister will not be legally allowed to stray more than 100 meters from his workplace. He will be entitled to receive family but cannot maintain political contacts.

“I will not allow political activity here. This is my livelihood and I take it very seriously,” affirmed the lawyer. However, Dirceu was reported to be using his mobile telephone during the 25 minute journey from his cell to the workplace, which may be regarded as unlawful.

Delúbio Soares and Valdemar Costa Neto, other ex-ministers imprisoned for their involvement in the scandal, were also granted work release. The former will work at the headquarters of the Central Workers’ Union (UTC), the latter as a restaurant administrator.

The case went to trial in August 2012, seven years after the scandal surfaced, and despite guilty verdicts none of those convicted had served any prison time until November 2013. The mensalão scandle, which accused several leaders of the PT party for offering monthly bribes to members of Congress in exchange for their support on legislation between 2003 and 2005, had fueled hopes that it might put an end to Brazil’s notorious culture of impunity.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Update is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.


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