BRASILIA – Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who rose from childhood poverty to become a two-term president, has been convicted on corruption charges in the first of five graft trials he faces.
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He was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison, but will remain free on appeal.
The ruling marked a stunning fall for Lula, Brazil’s first working-class president, who left office six years ago with an 83% approval rating. The former union leader won global admiration for transformative social policies that helped reduce stinging inequality in Latin America’s biggest country.
Barack Obama once labeled him the most popular politician on Earth.
The verdict represented the highest-profile conviction yet in the sweeping corruption investigation that for over three years has rattled Brazil, revealing a sprawling system of graft at top levels of business and government, and throwing the country’s political system into disarray.
Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting 3.7m reais ($1.2m) worth of bribes from engineering firm OAS SA, the amount prosecutors said the company spent refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his help winning contracts with the state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras.
Federal prosecutors have accused Lula, who first took the presidency in 2003, of masterminding a long-running corruption scheme that was uncovered in a probe into kickbacks around Petrobras.