Brazil’s Lula to stand trial

> For­mer pres­i­dent faces three counts of cor­rup­tion

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

SAO PAULO: Brazil’s for­mer pres­i­dent Luiz Ina­cio Lula da Silva will stand trial on cor­rup­tion charges, a cru­sad­ing fed­eral judge ruled yes­ter­day, ad­ding more tur­bu­lence to Brazil’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

Judge Ser­gio Moro said Lula, who served as pres­i­dent from 2003 to 2011 and has for two decades been an iconic and pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal force in Brazil, will face charges of ac­cept­ing 3.7 mil­lion Brazil­ian reais (RM4.7 mil­lion) in bribes con­nected to a sweep­ing kick­back probe at state-run oil com­pany Petro­bras.

Moro wrote in his rul­ing that ac­cord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tors’ charges, Lula was a “di­rect ben­e­fi­ciary” of bribes from OAS, one of the en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion firms at the cen­tre of the graft scan­dal, and there­fore must stand trial.

The cor­rup­tion case will also put on trial Lula’s wife, Marisa Leti­cia Lula da Silva; OAS chief ex­ec­u­tive Jose Alde­mario “Leo” Pin­heiro; Paulo Okamotto, the pres­i­dent of the Lula In­sti­tute, and four oth­ers.

In an e-mailed note yes­ter­day, Lula’s lawyers again said their client had com­mit­ted no crime and la­belled Moro as a “im­par­tial” judge who was on a witch hunt to see the for­mer leader jailed.

Lula, speak­ing via video link, told an event held by his lawyers in New York that the charges were a “farce”.

“What’s hap­pen­ing isn’t get­ting me down, but just mo­ti­vates me to go out and talk more,” said Lula, ad­ding he “will keep fight­ing”.

Yes­ter­day’s events capped an in­cred­i­bly choppy few weeks for Brazil.

Lula’s hand-cho­sen suc­ces­sor Dilma Rouss­eff was found guilty by the Se­nate of break­ing bud­get rules and dis­missed from the pres­i­dency late last month.

Her suc­ces­sor, for­mer vice-pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer, has abruptly pulled the coun­try to the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic right, and is try­ing to boost Brazil out of its worst eco­nomic re­ces­sion since the 1930s.

Moro’s de­ci­sion may pre­vent Lula from mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal come­back in the 2018 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. It could also de­rail any hopes the Work­ers’ Party (PT) had of re­turn­ing to power, or pos­si­bly even sur­viv­ing, ac­cord­ing to some ex­perts.

De­spite the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions fac­ing the PT and sev­eral of its for­mer coali­tion par­ties, the most re­cent polls have shown that Lula re­mains a lead­ing can­di­date for 2018.

Lula was charged with three counts each of cor­rup­tion, which car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of 16 years per count, and money laun­der­ing, with a pos­si­ble sen­tence of up to 10 years per count.

If found guilty, how­ever, the sen­tence would be de­ter­mined by the judge, and Lula and the oth­ers to stand trial would have chances to ap­peal. – Reuters

Lula is ac­cused of ac­cept­ing RM4.7 mil­lion in bribes.

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