Lula: Brazil court adds 13 years to ex-president’s sentence

145
Lula has denied all the charges and claims they are politically motivated. AFP/GETTY

A Brazilian court Wednesday handed a near 13-year sentence to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in a new conviction for the former leftist president already serving a lengthy jail term in a separate case.

Lula, 73, was found guilty by a court in the southern city of Curitiba of accepting renovation work by two construction companies on a farmhouse in exchange for ensuring they won contracts with the state-run oil company Petrobras.

He was given a sentence of 12 years and 11 months by the court in the southern city of Curitiba.

A legal expert, Thiago Bottino do Amaral of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, told AFP that, under Brazilian law, prison terms can be served one after the other as long as the total time behind bars does not exceed 30 years.

Lula, since April last year, is already serving a 12-year term for corruption in a separate case. His prison is in Curitiba.

The leftist former leader ruled Brazil between 2003 and 2010.

He has denied all the charges against him, claiming they are politically motivated with the aim of preventing him competing in elections last year that were won by Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

‘Car Wash’ probe

Defending himself in the latest case, he said the farmhouse did not belong to him and its title was in the name of one of his friends, Fernando Bittar.

But the Curitiba judge, Gabriela Hardt, was not persuaded, noting that “the family of ex-president Lula very often frequented the farm as if he was the owner.”

She also observed that Bittar had said in 2014 that his own family did not visit the property as often and that it was used more by Lula’s family.

“The accused received these unjustified benefits because of his position as president of the republic, of whom exemplary behavior is demanded,” she said.

The value of the renovation work carried out was put at more than one million reais ($270,000).

The two sentences weighing on Lula come from “Car Wash,” the name of a sprawling corruption probe originally overseen by Brazil’s current justice minister, former judge Sergio Moro.

The investigation uncovered a vast graft operation involving Petrobras and major construction companies and bribes to politicians of several parties.

‘Persecution’ claimed

Lula is the most high-profile of several political and corporate figures to be brought down by the probe. Moro handed him his first prison sentence after finding the ex-president guilty of accepting a luxury seaside apartment as a bribe by a construction company, also in exchange for contracts with Petrobras.

Hardt took over “Car Wash” at the end of last year when Moro accepted his new post under Bolsonaro, who vowed to eradicate graft as part of a hard line on crime.

Bolsonaro has said he hopes Lula “rots in prison.” On Wednesday, the president tweeted a news headline of Lula’s new conviction and sentence without comment.

The head of Lula’s Workers Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, tweeted that “the persecution of Lula continues.”

Last week, Lula asked for permission to leave prison to attend the funeral of his brother, but the authorization arrived too late, only after the burial.

“They didn’t let me say goodbye to Vava out of pure cruelty. All I can do is stay here and cry,” Lula said at the time.