Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was convicted on corruption charges on Wednesday and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.
The ruling marked a stunning fall for Lula, one of the country’s most popular politicians and a top contender to win next year’s presidential election. He faces four more corruption trials and will remain free on appeal.
Judge Sergio Moro found Lula, 71, guilty of accepting $1.2 million worth of bribes from engineering firm OAS SA, the amount of money prosecutors said the company spent refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his help winning contracts with state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro (PETR4.SA).
Federal prosecutors have accused Lula, Brazil’s first working-class president from 2003 to 2011, of masterminding a long-running corruption scheme that was uncovered in a probe into kickbacks around Petrobras. The verdict represented the highest-profile conviction in Brazil.
Lula’s legal team said in an emailed statement that he was innocent and they would appeal.
“For over three years, Lula has been subject to a politically motivated investigation,” they wrote. “No credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence blatantly ignored.”