Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and money laundering Wednesday in a million-dollar home improvement quid pro quo scheme and was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison. During Lula’s presidency, a construction company gave the leader $1.1 million in home improvements on a beachfront apartment in exchange for lucrative contracts with Petrobas, the country’s state-controlled oil company. The 71-year-old has dismissed the charges against him as a “farce” and his allies have decried the verdict as political-motivated witch hunt. The conviction comes as part of an expansive investigation in the country into billions of dollars in kickbacks allegedly run through Petrobas.
Lula served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010, period where the country’s economy exploded and its global profile soared. The two-term president wrapped himself in the country’s rise that mirrored his own rise from childhood poverty making him a popular figure in the country despite hints of scandal while in office.
From the New York Times:
The case against him began with an investigation into money laundering at a gas station. But as prosecutors continued digging, they said they discovered billions of dollars’ worth of bribes involving Petrobras and powerful contractors like Odebrecht, a large construction company with deep ties across the hemisphere. The case — which became known as the Lava Jato, or Car Wash, scandal — has ensnared other powerful politicians and put dozens of lawmakers under a cloud of suspicion.
That investigation has mushroomed into a wide-ranging probe that has touched almost every corner of Brazil’s political class. Lula’s handpicked successor as president, his chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and removed from office in August 2016. Her temporary replacement, current president Michel Temer, has also been charged with corruption.
The verdict has divided opinion in Brazil. Lula, who is expected to remain free until the legal process fully resolves itself, also happens to lead in early polls for the 2018 election in Brazil.