Brazil’s ex-president Lula to stand trial for corruption

The powerful politician is accused of receiving $1 million in graft but Lula says he is innocent.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Lula says corruption accusations are politically motivated and isn't getting him down.

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will stand trial for corruption and money laundering, adding more turbulence to the country's political landscape.

State prosecutors allege that Lula, who is one of the most powerful politicians in Brazil, received $1.1 million in kickbacks from state-run oil company, Petrobras. 

In his ruling Judge Sergio Moro said Lula, one of Brazil's most powerful politicians, was a direct beneficiary of bribes from OAS SA, one of the engineering and construction firms at the centre of the scandal, and therefore must stand trial.

Lula who served as president from 2003 to 2011 and is seen as a leading candidate has denied the allegations. He said it was politically motivated. 

"What's happening isn't getting me down, but just motivates me to go out and talk more," said Lula. "It is a big farce, a big lie, a big pyrotechnic show.”

Lula's wife Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, OAS Chief Executive Jose Aldemario "Leo" Pinheiro, president of the Lula Institute Paulo Okamotto, and four others, will also go on trial.

The charges against Lula have capped an incredibly choppy few weeks for Brazil.

Lula's hand-chosen successor Dilma Rousseff was found guilty by the Senate of breaking budget rules and dismissed from the presidency late last month.

Her successor, former vice president Michel Temer, has abruptly pulled the country to the political and economic right, and is trying to pull Brazil out of its worst economic recession since the 1930s.

The outcome of Lula’s trail may affect his political comeback. It also puts the Workers' Party (PT) which he founded at risk.

Lula was charged with three counts each of corruption, which carries a maximum sentence of 16 years per count, and money laundering, with a possible sentence of up to 10 years per count.

If found guilty, however, the sentence would be determined by the judge, and Lula and the others to stand trial would have chances to appeal.