Brazil’s ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to nine and a half years in jail.
The judge ruled Lula da Silva could remain free pending an appeal.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has rejected claims that he received an apartment as a bribe in a corruption scandal linked to state oil company Petrobras.
The former leader says the trial is politically motivated and has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The case is the first of five charges against Lula da Silva.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva served eight years as president until 2011 and has expressed interest in running again in the 2018 elections for the left-wing Workers’ Party.
Image source Wikimedia
On July 12, a judge found the former president guilty of accepting bribes from engineering company OAS in the form of a beachfront apartment in return for his help in winning contracts with the state oil company.
In a statement, his lawyers insisted he was innocent and said they would appeal.
“For more than three years Lula has been subject to a politically motivated investigation. No credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence blatantly ignored,” they wrote.
Brazil’s tourism minister Henrique Eduardo Alves has stepped down before vote on President Dilma Rousseff’s coalition.
Opposition lawmakers want to remove Dilma Rousseff over claims she manipulated accounts to hide growing deficit.
Officials from Dilma Rousseff’s coalition allies, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), will vote to leave the alliance on March 29, members said.
Tourism Minister Henrique Eduardo Alves became the first PMDB member to resign from government on March 28.
Dilma Rousseff, a former political prisoner during Brazil’s military government, began her second term in office 14 months ago.
However, her popularity has plummeted amid corruption allegations around senior members of the governing Workers’ Party.
The speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, agreed in December to open impeachment proceedings against her.
Last week, Dilma Rousseff, who denies wrongdoing, said the procedure amounted to a coup. She met officials from the PMDB ahead of that party’s national leadership meeting on March 29.
However, a number of lawmakers from the PMDB said ahead of the meeting that most members had already decided to abandon the coalition.
The PMDB is headed by Michel Temer, Dilma Rousseff’s deputy, who would become president should she be removed.
The loss of support by his party’s 69 lawmakers could have consequences for the impeachment proceedings. Dilma Rousseff needs the support of a third of the 513 members of the lower house of Congress to stave off impeachment.
The Workers’ Party has been in power since former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in for his first term in 2003.
It has been hit by a long-running investigation into bribes from contractors working for state oil company Petrobras.
A recent attempt by Dilma Rousseff to appoint Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff was seen by critics as an attempt to shield him from money-laundering charges – which he denies – connected with the case.
His appointment was blocked by a judge earlier this month.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on March 28 he expected Dilma Rousseff to survive growing pressure, and said he would speak to Michel Temer to work out how to save her job.
Protests involving tens of thousands of people have taken place across Brazil to call for Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment.
According to poll by the Datafolha poll in late February, only 11% of respondents across the country said President Dilma Rousseff’s performance was “good or excellent”.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said she will take legal action against Senator Delcidio Amaral who has accused her of involvement in corruption at the state oil company Petrobras.
Delcidio Amaral said Dilma Rousseff knew of wrongdoings and tried to block investigations.
Dilma Rousseff has denied any involvement.
Meanwhile, the new justice minister has threatened to remove teams from the Petrobras inquiry if any more material is leaked to the press.
In a statement, Brazil’s presidency said Dilma Rousseff will sue Senator Delcidio Amaral for defamation over his interview with a magazine.
Delcidio Amaral was the leader of her Workers’ Party in the Senate and had agreed a plea bargain with prosecutors after being arrested as a result of the Petrobras scandal.
The inquiry has led to the arrest or investigation of dozens of executives and politicians, suspected of overcharging for contracts with Petrobras and using part of the money to pay for bribes and electoral campaigns.
There is widespread public support for the investigation, known as Operation Car Wash, but Dilma Rousseff and her allies have criticized its leading judge, Sergio Moro.
They argue the inquiry has become politicized and some of his actions have been illegal.
Last week, Judge Sergio Moro released phone recordings suggesting Dilma Rousseff had appointed her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff to spare him arrest over money-laundering charges he denies.
Even though Dilma Rousseff vehemently denies it, Supreme Court judge Gilmar Mendes has suspended Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s nomination, and a final decision is yet to be announced.
If Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is a minister, any charges against him can only be dealt with by the Supreme Court, which operates more slowly, and not by Sergio Moro.
Earlier this month, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was briefly detained and questioned at Sergio Moro’s request.
Dilma Rousseff’s supporters have also criticized leaks of questioning and details of the investigation to the media.
New Justice Minister Eugenio Aragao questioned the publication of the unverified phone tap conversations between Dilma Rousseff and Lula and said the Car Wash investigation was losing its objectivity.
The release of the recordings has also been criticized by Supreme Court judge Marco Aurelio Mello, who has questioned its legality.
However, the content of the phone calls has increased pressure on Dilma Rousseff, who is facing growing calls for her removal.
Additionally, there has been a resurgence in allegations of media bias against Dilma Rousseff and her Workers’ Party.
Much of the criticism has been against Globo, Brazil’s largest media group and one of the biggest in the world, allegations it denies.
In 2013, Globo issued an announcement about its support of the 1964 military coup, which led to a two-decade military dictatorship, and admitted it had made a “mistake”.
Tens of thousands of people have joined pro-Dilma Rousseff rallies in Brazil to show support for the president who is facing calls for her impeachment.
Earlier, police used tear gas on anti-government protesters in Sao Paulo.
Several protests against Dilma Rousseff erupted two days ago after she appointed the former Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as a minister.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court judge has suspended Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s nomination as minister.
The decision is not final, and the government can appeal. In naming Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff is accused of shielding him from charges of money-laundering, which he denies.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who remains a popular leader, addressed protesters early in the evening. Wearing a red shirt, he said: “There will not be a coup against Ms Rousseff.”
The former president also said the opposition did not accept the results of the 2014 election, in which Dilma Rousseff was re-elected for another four-year term.
“Democracy is the only way to allow people to participate in government’s decisions,” he told a cheering crowd.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he was joining Dilma Rousseff’s government to help the country and said Brazil, which is in its worst recession in decades, needed to resume growth.
Organizers said about 300,000 people demonstrated there, but the respected Datafolha institute put that number at 95,000.
Smaller rallies were also held in Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and dozens of other cities.
Hours earlier, riot police dispersed anti-government protesters who had blocked the same central Sao Paulo thoroughfare since March 16, when demonstrations erupted against Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s appointment as minister.
The nationwide rallies on March 18 were the first time the government had massed the ranks of supporters since Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was briefly arrested earlier this month.
They came after mass protests across Brazil on March 13 against corruption and calling for Dilma Rousseff’s departure. Estimates of the turnout range from one million to three million demonstrators.
Opponents who have called for Dilma Rousseff’s removal also accuse her of economic mismanagement and involvement in a sprawling corruption scandal in the state oil company Petrobras.
Dilma Rousseff denies wrongdoings, and has accused her rivals of mounting a “coup” against her.
The president insisted that she appointed Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had started to make overtures to stand for president in 2018, to help her rebuild her political base in Congress and fight the impeachment proceedings.
However, Supreme Court judge Gilmar Mendes suspended Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s nomination as chief of staff on March 18, saying it was an intention to interfere in investigations.
Opponents had argued that Dima Rousseff’s decision was unconstitutional and obstructed justice, as it was a move made to grant Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva immunity from money-laundering charges that he denies.
As a minister, any charges against the former leader could only be dealt with by the Supreme Court, which operates more slowly, and not by the judge in the southern city of Curitiba who is overseeing Operation Car Wash into allegations of corruption at Petrobras.
Dilma Rousseff and her supporters accuse judge Sergio Moro of political interference.
Meanwhile, an impeachment committee in the lower house of Congress held its first session on March 18 and said it expected to reach a decision within a month on whether to recommend removing Dilma Rousseff.
The process is over allegations that Dilma Rousseff broke the law managing the federal budget in 2014, when she was running for re-election.
The appointment of Brazil’s ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff to President Dilma Rousseff, has been blocked by a federal judge shortly after the former president was sworn in.
Judge Sergio Moro’s injunction said there was a risk a federal investigation could be derailed if Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was a minister.
In Brazil, cabinet members can only be investigated by the Supreme Court, not by federal courts.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is under investigation in connection with a corruption scandal.
Prosecutors filed charges against the former president last week accusing him of money laundering and fraud, which he has denied.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s nomination as chief of staff has divided Brazilians.
Some said it was a move to shield him from prosecution while others welcomed his return to active politics.
Ahead of the former leader’s swearing-in ceremony, groups of supporters and opponents of the government clashed outside the presidential palace.
The ceremony itself was interrupted by a protester who cried “Shame!”.
The protester was drowned out by supporters of the governing Workers’ Party, who shouted pro-government slogans and Lula’s name.
During the ceremony, President Dilma Rousseff praised Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who she said was “not just a great politician, but a great friend and comrade of many battles”.
“We’ve always stood side by side,” she said.
A visibly angry Dilma Rousseff then criticised federal Judge Sergio Moro, who is leading the investigation into a massive corruption scandal at state-oil giant Petrobras.
On March 16, Judge Sergio Moro made public a taped phone conversation between President Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva which has been interpreted by some to show that Lula was given the post of chief of staff to shield him from prosecution.
In the conversation, Dilma Rousseff told her predecessor and mentor she would send him the official decree naming him as minister “just to use in case it’s necessary”.
The Brazilian president said Judge Sergio Moro had violated the law and the constitution by releasing the tape and that she would order an investigation.
Dilma Rousseff herself is under considerable political pressure.
Her critics want to impeach her over allegations she manipulated Brazil’s account books to hide a growing deficit.
Analysts say she named Lula chief of staff so he could use his influence with members of Congress to convince them to vote against her impeachment.
As more and more members of her Workers’ Party are being investigated over corruption at Petrobras, she is also facing increased questions about what Dilma Rousseff may have known.
Dilma Rousseff was head of the board at Petrobras from 2003 to 2010 and has always denied any wrongdoing.
On March 13, a record number of people took part in anti-government marches across Brazil.
An estimated three million people called for an end to corruption and for Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment.
There have also been rallies in support of the government, but they have been smaller than those opposing the administration.
The political upheaval comes at a time of economic problems, with Brazil going through its worst recession in more than three decades.
Brazil’s ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been appointed as President Dilma Rousseff’s new chief of staff.
The move shields the former president from possible prosecution by a federal judge investigating a massive corruption scandal named Operation Car Wash.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s appointment sparked protests in several Brazilian cities by those angry at the decision.
However, President Dilma Rousseff said that protecting her mentor and predecessor from prosecution was not the motivation for the appointment.
“Lula’s arrival in my government strengthens it and there are people who don’t want it to be stronger,” she said.
Under Brazilian law, cabinet members can only be tried by the Supreme Court.
On March 4, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was briefly detained and questioned over allegations of money laundering connected to Operation Car Wash, a massive investigation into corruption at the state oil giant, Petrobras.
The former president denies the allegations and says they are aimed at preventing him from running for president again in 2018.
In a taped telephone conversation released by the judge overseeing the investigation, Dilma Rousseff offered to send Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a copy of his appointment “in case of necessity” – interpreted by some as meaning in case he needed it to avoid arrest.
Hours after the announcement of his appointment, protesters gathered outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia and in at least three other cities.
In Congress, opposition politicians gathered around a microphone during a chaotic session and chanted “resignation”.
Dilma Rousseff says the appointment is due to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva being a “skilful political negotiator” and experienced leader who will help kick off economic recovery.
During his time in office, the Brazilian economy experienced unprecedented economic growth and wealth redistribution.
“I believe [former] President Lula, who was in charge of the country for eight years, cannot have his reputation destroyed in this manner,” added Dilma Rousseff.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other ministers appointed on March 16 are expected to be sworn in at 10:00 local time on March 17.
As chief of staff, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to lead the fight against moves in Congress to impeach President Dilma Rousseff over allegations she manipulated Brazil’s account books to hide a growing deficit.
Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has accepted a key ministerial role in President Dilma Rousseff’s government, media reports say.
Members of the governing Workers’ Party say Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s appointment will strengthen Dilma Rousseff’s beleaguered administration.
In becoming a minister, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will also have some legal protection.
Last week, prosecutors requested the former leader arrest in a money laundering inquiry over a luxury sea-front penthouse.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has denied any wrongdoing and says the claims are politically motivated.
The reports, quoting unnamed sources, said Dilma Rousseff and the former president would meet in Brasilia on March 15. There has been no official comment.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva handpicked Dilma Rousseff as a candidate to succeed him in 2010, and has not ruled out running again in 2018.
Dilma Rousseff has faced increasing calls for her removal as a result of a corruption scandal at the state oil company Petrobras and Brazil’s worst recession in decades.
On March 13, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets calling for her to go. But the president has repeatedly said she will not resign.
Dilma Rousseff could, however, face an impeachment process in Congress, accused of masking the budget deficit, which she denies.
One of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s main tasks, the reports said, would be to negotiate with the main coalition partner in order to prevent an impeachment going ahead.
His appointment could also be seen as bringing some order to what many analysts consider a chaotic administration.
As a minister, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva could only be tried in the Supreme Court, placing him out of the reach of the judge in the southern city of Curitiba responsible for the Petrobras investigation.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has refused to resign over her alleged mishandling of the economy after moves to impeach her.
Dilma Rousseff accused her opponents of causing a political crisis which she said had damaged the economy.
She also defended her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, over money-laundering allegations.
Dilma Rousseff said a prosecutors’ request for his detention had no legal basis.
The ongoing crisis has deepened the worst recession in decades in Brazil – Latin America’s biggest economy.
Dilma Rousseff said she had been democratically elected and had no intention of going.
The inquiry has implicated several business leaders and politicians close to the government including Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Regional prosecutors in Sao Paulo want Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 70, placed in “preventive custody” after charging him with failing to declare ownership of a luxury sea-front penthouse in the seaside resort of Guaruja.
They say this is necessary because he may try to obstruct the investigation. The request still has to be accepted or rejected by a judge.
The former president denies any wrongdoing and says the claims are politically motivated. He says he never owned the apartment.
His lawyer, Cristiano Zanin Martins, said Brazil’s ex-leader had invested in the project and had visited the unfinished apartment but later asked for his money back rather than receiving the property.
President Dilma Rousseff refused to comment on a possible cabinet job for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva but said she would be proud to have him in her government.
Last week, the former president was briefly detained and questioned in a separate, federal investigation into whether extensive refurbishment on the penthouse had constituted favors in exchange for political benefit.
The renovations were carried out by one of Brazil’s biggest construction companies, OAS.
Officially the apartment belongs to OAS, which is itself accused of paying bribes to politicians and senior officials at state oil company Petrobras to secure lucrative contracts.
In addition, federal prosecutors are looking into allegations that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sold his influence in President Dilma Rousseff’s administration in exchange for donations to his Instituto Lula non-profit foundation.
Last week’s questioning of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva led to criticism not only from his supporters but also from judges and politicians, who said it was unnecessary.
His supporters say the attacks on him are aimed at tarnishing his reputation, amid rumors that he may run for office again in 2018.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was Brazil’s left-leaning president from 2003 to 2011 and was succeeded in office by his political protégé, Dilma Rousseff, who has record-low approval rates amid a serious economic crisis.
A former factory worker and union leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva remains a very popular figure in Brazil despite the accusations against senior members of the Workers’ Party.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has visited ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a day after he was questioned over corruption allegations at the state oil company, Petrobras.
Dilma Rousseff appeared with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the balcony of his apartment and waved to hundreds of people who had gathered below.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said his brief arrest on March 4 is part of a campaign to sully his image and that of Dilma Rousseff.
Police are looking into payments and donations made to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s institute.
Some of Brazil’s wealthiest people as well as dozens of politicians from both the governing coalition and the opposition are also being investigated for involvement in the alleged Petrobras corruption scheme.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-wing icon, left office in 2011. His Workers’ Party has been hit hard by the long-running scandal.
After his interrogation on March 4, he told reporters he was the victim of a “prejudice as a working-class man”.
Dilma Rousseff turned up at his home on March 5, along with hundreds of people showing support for the former president.
Today’s rally was peaceful in contrast to angry scenes on March 4 when protesters clashed with police outside the building.
“She is going to meet with Lula as a gesture of solidarity and support,” a press officer at the presidential palace told the Associated Press news agency.
Dilma Rousseff later could be seen on the balcony with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his wife Marisa.
The Workers’ Party has held the Brazilian presidency since 2003, both under Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.
In the latest operations, police enforced 33 search and 11 detention warrants in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Bahia, officials said.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 70, is suspected of receiving about 30 million reais ($8 million) in speaking fees and donations to his charity.
The former president’s home was among the premises targeted, as was the headquarters of the institute in Sao Paulo.
Brazil’s ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been arrested as part of a huge fraud inquiry into the state oil company Petrobras.
His house was raided by federal police agents and he was brought in for questioning.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office in 2011, has denied allegations of corruption.
The long-running inquiry, known as Operation Car Wash, is probing accusations of corruption and money laundering at Petrobras.
Dozens of Brazilian executives and politicians have been arrested or are under investigation on suspicion of overcharging contracts with Petrobras and using part of the money to pay for bribes and electoral campaigns.
Police said they had evidence that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 70, received illicit benefits from the kickback scheme.
His institute said in a statement the “violence” against the former president was “arbitrary, illegal and unjustifiable”, as he had been co-operating with the investigations.
Officials said some 33 search warrants and 11 detention warrants were being carried out by 200 federal police agents in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Bahia.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s house in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, was raided early on Friday. The headquarters of his institute in Sao Paulo was also targeted, as were his wife, Marisa, and sons, reports said.
One of the lines of inquiry is that construction companies targeted by the operation could have favored Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the development of a ranch and a luxury beachfront apartment.
Raids in the cities where these properties are located have also been carried out.
“Ex-president Lula, besides being party leader, was the one ultimately responsible for the decision on who would be the directors at Petrobras and was one of the main beneficiaries of these crimes,” a police statement quoted by Reuters news agency said.
“There is evidence that the crimes enriched him and financed electoral campaigns and the treasury of his political group.”
Supporters and opponents of the former president clashed in front of his house following the raids.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, from the Workers’ Party, served two terms as president and was succeeded in office by his political protégé, Dilma Rousseff.
He led Brazil during a time of rapid economic growth and is credited for lifting millions of people out of poverty.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva still is a well-liked figure and has been considered as a potential candidate in presidential elections in 2018. However, his popularity has been hit by recent allegations that he either had knowledge or involvement in the wrongdoings.
On March 3, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s institute said the former president had never committed any illegal acts before, during or after his presidential term.
The corruption scandal threatens the government of Dilma Rousseff, who has faced repeated impeachment calls, analysts say.
Dilma Rousseff has denied having any knowledge of wrongdoings.
Brazil has started to jail senior figures convicted in the “Mensalao” (big monthly allowance), the country’s biggest corruption trial.
The Supreme Court issued arrest orders for 12 of the 25 politicians, bankers and businessmen convicted last year.
Ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s former chief of staff was among the first to surrender to the police.
The “Mensalao” was a scheme that used public funds to pay coalition parties for political support.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was not implicated in the case.
The trial is seen as a test of Brazil’s attempts to crack down on corruption.
On Thursday, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that most of the politicians, businessmen and bankers convicted in the country’s biggest corruption trial had to start their jail terms immediately.
The arrest warrants were issued on Friday.
The “Mensalao” was a scheme that used public funds to pay coalition parties for political support
Jose Genoino, a former president of the governing Workers’ Party (PT) was the first to give himself up to the police.
Jose Genoino – who was sentenced to six years and 11 months in jail – was driven to the Federal Police headquarters in Sao Paulo to hand himself over.
He shouted “Long live the PT!” to a group of supporters before entering the building.
The PT ex-president, who was jailed and tortured by the military dictatorship in the 1970s, also released an open letter protesting his innocence and saying he considers himself a “political prisoner”.
“With indignation, I abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court. What do the accuse me of? There is no evidence,” he wrote.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, who was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months, also surrendered in Sao Paulo.
Jose Dirceu released an open letter protesting against the Supreme Court decision that ruled over the immediate start of his and other jail sentences.
“As always, I will abide by the Constitution and the law, but not without protesting and denouncing the unfair nature of the conviction against me. The worst injustice is that committed by Justice itself,” it reads.
The Brazilian Federal Police says all the arrested will be transported to Brasilia in the next few days.
The central allegation of the case was that illegal payments and benefits were paid to members of Congress in return for supporting the government in crucial votes.
The “Mensalao” scandal came to light in 2005 but the sentences were handed down at the end of 2012.
The trial was seen as a key test of Brazil’s ability to hold its politicians to account for corruption.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva left office at the end of 2010 with huge approval ratings and remains a popular figure in Brazilian political life.