Brazil’s Lula to stand trial
> Former president faces three counts of corruption
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.