MNA International Desk: Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for graft on Wednesday—a stark fall from grace for the iconic leftist leader, and the latest twist in a sprawling political corruption probe engulfing Latin America’s largest economy.
Lula, who ruled Brazil from 2003-2010, was convicted and handed a 9.5-year prison term for accepting a bribe of a luxury seaside apartment and $1.1 million.
But anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro, who handed down the sentence, said the 71-year-old Lula would remain free pending an appeal—something his lawyers immediately said they would lodge.
“We are appealing and will prove his innocence,” the lawyers said in a statement sent news agency.
The conviction nevertheless landed a heavy blow on the prospect of Lula making a political comeback in presidential elections due in October next year.
The verdict also sent a dramatic message to much of the rest of Brazil’s political class that they, too, risked falling afoul of the anti-graft drive.
Even the current president, Michel Temer, has been charged with taking bribes and several of his ministers have resigned after corruption claims were made.
The sea change has come about because of Operation “Car Wash,” a sweeping anti-corruption probe looking into a giant embezzlement and kickbacks scheme involving state-owned oil group Petrobras, construction firms and several political parties—Lula’s Workers’ Party chief among them.