Brazil’s Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. [AP]
Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for graft in a stark fall from grace for the iconic leftist leader.
Mr Lula, who ruled Brazil from 2003 to 2010, was convicted and handed a nine-and-a-half-year prison term on Wednesday for accepting a luxury seaside apartment and $1.1 million, the latest twist in a giant corruption probe engulfing Latin America’s largest economy.
But anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro said the 71-year-old 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.
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 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 probe looking into a giant embezzlement and kickbacks scheme involving state-owned oil group Petrobras and construction firms.