Former Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been convicted and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for indulging in corruption and money laundering.
Lula was found guilty in a giant kickbacks scheme centered on state-owned oil group Petrobras, popularly called the “Car Wash” scheme.
According to AFP, Lula, the leftist politician who ruled Brazil from 2003-2010, remained free pending a possible appeal.
The verdict has put into jeopardy, a potential comeback bid by Lula in the next elections due in October 2018.
Lula has repeatedly denied taking any bribes during or after his presidency. He has described the investigation against him by Judge Sergio Moro as a campaign to prevent his return to power.
That part of the probe focused on allegations that Lula received a luxury seaside apartment as a bribe from one of Brazil’s biggest construction companies, OAS.
The judge, who ordered the apartment be confiscated, said Lula had illegally received USD 1.1 million.
“Between the crimes of corruption and money laundering, there are sufficient grounds for sentences totaling nine years and six months of incarceration,” Moro said in his verdict.
The sentence by Moro, whose wide popularity in Brazil for his anti-corruption work has prompted some to see him as a possible presidential candidate, fed into broader political ructions in Brazil.
Lula’s chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and booted from office last year, with her vice president, Michel Temer, taking over the reins.
Temer himself is battling for his own political survival after being charged with taking bribes.
Two weeks ago, Moro sentenced an influential minister in the governments of Lula and Rousseff, Antonio Palocci, to 12 years in prison for corruption.
Palocci played a central role in the “Car Wash” scheme, most of which unfolded when Lula’s Workers’ Party was in power from 2003 to 2016.
Prosecutors said Palocci was a pointman in the flow of “bribes between the Odebrecht construction group and intermediaries of the Workers’ Party,” laundering more than USD 10 million used for party campaign finances.
Odebrecht, an industrial conglomerate with projects around the world, named Palocci “the Italian” in its list of code names for politicians regularly taking bribes in exchange for lucrative contracts with Petrobras and other favors.
(With inputs from agencies)