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Brazil Court Upholds Conviction of Former President Lula

01/24/2018 - 19h11

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FROM PORTO ALEGRE

The decision to convict former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was upheld by the 4th Regional Federal Court (TRF-4) on the afternoon of Wednesday (the 24th).

Judges Leandro Paulsen, João Pedro Gebran Neto and Victor Laus voted to increase the former president's sentence.

Judge Paulsen has sentenced Lula to 12 years and one month in prison, siding with judge Gebran Neto who had set the sentence.

In July of 2017, judge Sergio Moro sentenced the former president to nine and a half years of prison.

Once the final ruling has been issued, Lula's attorneys will have 48 hours to file any clarifications they may need regarding the sentence.

Judge Paulsen said that a warrant for the former president's arrest will be issued if the appeals put forward by the defense are denied.

In the lawsuit that was filed by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, Lula was accused of receiving R$ 3.7 million (US$ 1.2 million) from construction firm OAS in exchange for contracts involving state-run oil company Petrobras.

According to prosecutors, the amount was offered to the former president in the form of a three-floor apartment, renovations of said apartment and the moving and storing of Lula's presidential collection (the latter point was rejected by judge Moro).

When declaring his vote, judge Paulsen stated that the fact that Lula held the highest office in the country must be taken into consideration by the court.

"It is a very important element," he said. "Committing crimes while in office or due to one's influence is incompatible [with the position]".

He said that the fact that Lula participated in the diversion of Petrobras funds was "undeniable". "There are plenty of elements that demonstrate that [Lula] behaved in a free and conscious form to make these crimes viable and perpetuate them," he said.

He also emphasized the notion that the corruption scheme involving state-run company Petrobras enabled Lula to obtain considerable political gains, and not just personal advantages, such as the three-floor apartment.

As far as the apartment is concerned, judge Paulsen considered that the apartment was an "illegitimate payment made out to the Workers' Party because of the construction contracts [at Petrobras]".

The judge said that "there is nothing to be accounted for in terms of cash" given that the former president had received an asset, just as he had been entitled to renovating the apartment.

Judge Gebran Neto spoke for over two hours, avoiding the use of legal terms while attempting to demonstrate the connection between the former president and the beachfront apartment in Guarujá, São Paulo.

He rejected the defense's preliminary considerations. He also agreed with the initial ruling, whereby sentencing would only start to take effect after all of the defense's appeals have been processed.

The Judge stated that the former president was one of the main orchestrators ("if not the main orchestrator") behind the massive corruption scheme.

"The evidence gathered herein leads to the conclusion that, at the very least, [Lula] had knowledge of and supported that which was taking place within Petrobras, namely, the channeling of considerable amounts of bribe money to the Workers' Party", he stated.

When it came to the apartment in Guarujá, judge Gebran Neto said that the evidence collected was strong.

"There is more than enough evidence to demonstrate that the three-floor apartment had been reserved for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and that that was where things stood when OAS handled the asset. There is also evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the renovations and purchasing of kitchen utensils were used to benefit the former president", he said.

WILL LULA STILL RUN FOR PRESIDENT?

Whether or not Lula will run for president is still unknown. The Clean Record Law (Ficha Limpa) stipulates that a defendant who is convicted by a court cannot run for office, but it also enables convicted candidates to appeal and potentially overturn their ineligibility.

To do so, the former president would need to address his appeal to the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) or the Supreme Court (STF).

The deadline for registering candidacies in the upcoming election is August 15th. The former president may also file a request for a suspensive effect at the Regional Federal Court (TRF), arguing, for example, that he was not given a fair trial.

Another possibility would be to register his candidacy without obtaining an injunction.

Upon taking notice of the fact that his candidacy has not complied with all the requirements, the Superior Electoral Court would then have to review the case.

In the meantime, the former president will be allowed to campaign. The Workers' Party would still be allowed to replace him with another candidate 20 days before the election in October.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

Read the article in the original language

Leonardo Benassatto/Reuters
A man waves a Brazilian national flag as he protests against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in São Paulo
A man waves a Brazilian national flag as he protests against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in São Paulo

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