RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was convicted on Wednesday and sentenced to nine years and six months in prison for corruption.
Lula, as da Silva is known, was accused of allowing corruption to flourish during his two terms as president beginning in 2003, and of personally benefiting from the schemes.
Judge Sergio Moro announced the decision in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.
Lula was charged with receiving bribes from a construction company in the form of renovations on a seaside apartment in Guaruja on the Atlantic Coast. In exchange, Lula allegedly ensured favourable treatment of the construction firm’s contract bids to Petrobras, the oil company part-owned by the state.
Lula denied having intended to buy the seaside apartment, which was never in his name.
The charges were part of an investigation known as “Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash), which has thrown Brazil’s political class into tumult. Lula is one of the South American country’s most popular political figures and the corruption probe’s most prominent target so far.
The former president recently announced his intention to run for the presidency again.
During several hours of questioning in a hearing in May over his alleged entanglement in the multi-billion-dollar bribery scheme, Lula said his accusers “had nothing.”
He had previously denied the charges, which he describes as politically motivated ploys to keep him from seeking another term in 2018 elections.
During his time in office he modernized Brazil’s economy, the largest in Latin America, and improved the living conditions of millions of poor Brazilians through a government programme called “Fome Zero” (Zero Hunger).
The former trade union leader also got along well with businesses and banks.
In impoverished areas of Brazil, the man who once shined shoes for a living is still very popular. A driving force behind his actions as president was his concern over respect for Brazil in the world.
“We are finally a first-class citizen,” he said, when Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics.