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Ex-President of Brazil Sentenced to Nearly 10 Years in Prison for Corruption

He has called the allegations against him a “farce” and has announced his intention to run for president in next year’s election. He had been widely considered a leading contender.

But Judge Sergio Moro, who issued Wednesday’s verdict, said that under Brazilian law, Mr. da Silva would be ineligible to run for office for twice as long as his sentence, or 19 years. Unless Mr. da Silva prevails on appeal, that finding leaves the Workers’ Party without an obvious candidate in next year’s vote.

The conviction is the latest salvo by Brazil’s judicial branch, which has declared war on the country’s entrenched culture of corruption. Brazil’s current president, Michel Temer, was charged last month with corruption, part of a near constant stream of allegations and charges that have ripped through the nation’s political establishment in recent years.

Judge Moro, who oversees cases stemming from a broad graft scandal surrounding the state-controlled oil company, said Mr. da Silva’s actions were part of a “scheme of systemic corruption” in Petrobras.

“The president of the republic has enormous responsibilities,” Judge Moro wrote. “As such, his culpability is also” enormous when he commits crimes, he added.

Mr. da Silva presided over a period of robust economic growth in Brazil and remains a widely popular figure, credited with leading a social transformation that lifted millions from poverty in a nation with one of the world’s biggest disparities between rich and poor.

Despite the corruption allegations against him and his party, Mr. da Silva has been leading in recent public opinion polls on the election. Mr. Moro, the judge who convicted him, is often cited as Mr. da Silva’s closest rival in hypothetical matchups in the presidential race, though Mr. Moro has ruled out running for office.

In the verdict, Mr. Moro said that the former president had sought to intimidate the court, which the judge argued could be grounds for ordering his immediate arrest. Yet, Mr. Moro wrote, he deemed it “prudent” to allow Mr. da Silva to remain free pending an appeal.

Sending a former president to jail would be a “traumatic” event, he wrote.

While Mr. da Silva’s conviction involves relatively modest sums, especially compared with the staggering scale of some corruption cases in Brazil, prosecutors have described him as the mastermind of an enormous kickback scheme that enabled his party to buy support in Congress.

The case against him began with a probe 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.

Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the House, was sentenced in March to 15 years in jail for money laundering and corruption uncovered during the Petrobras investigation. And Mr. Temer, the current president, is working furiously to avoid being put on trial, hoping to convince lawmakers not to send the charges against him to the Supreme Court, the only venue where senior sitting politicians can be prosecuted.

The investigations have left Brazilians with few prominent politicians untainted by allegations of corruption. Wary politicians, meanwhile, have been considering passing an amnesty law to shield themselves, arguing that such protection is warranted to avert a collapse of the political system.

Source: NYT > World

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