Ex-Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.
The sentencing is the latest in the political scandal that has consumed the country, after the investigation named Operation Car Wash.
Operation Car Wash has been going on for the past three years and has been investigating corruption amongst the political class and businesses across Brazil.
Four former presidents and several congressmen from both sides of the political spectrum are also under investigation for their involvement in Operation Car Wash.
Lula has been found guilty of accepted $1.2m in bribes from a Brazilian engineering firm, OAS SA. Prosecutors said the company used the money to refurbish a beach apartment for Lula in return for his support for OAS SA to win contracts with the state oil company, Petroleo Brasilerio.
He will also face four more corruption trials and will remain free on appeal.
As Brazil’s first working-class president, Lula was celebrated for attempting to reduce the country’s inequality. He was thought to be running for president in the next election, however, plans of returning to office are now over after his conviction.
His defence team has maintained that the former president is innocent and they will appeal.
In an emailed statement to Reuters, they said:
For over 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.
Lula’s successor, former president Dilma Rousseff, has criticised the conviction, protesting that he is innocent and that the conviction “deeply hurts democracy”. Rousseff herself hasn’t been accused of corruption but she was impeached last August as an alleged attempt by the Senate to prevent her from protecting her supporters.
Brazil’s current president, Michel Temer who took over after Rousseff’s impeachment, was recently charged with accepting at least $4.6m in bribes from the country’s meat packer JBS, to help it gain government contracts resolve tax disputes and get free, cheap loans from the Brazil’s development bank.
However, he was recently given a confidence boost this week after the Senate passed a government-sponsored labour reform. Despite this policy win, a congressman in the lower house, Sergio Zveiter, has called on lawmakers to allow Brazil’s top court to try his impeachment case.
Brazil has only recently emerged from its worst recession on record and the unstable political scene will not do much to reassure the rating agencies who have warned they may downgrade the country.