SAO PAULO Ė Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced on Wednesday to nine years and six months in prison in connection with the massive corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
Both the guilty verdict and the sentence Ė which are subject to appeal Ė were handed down by Judge Sergio Moro, who is overseeing the sprawling Petrobras investigation.
Moro found the still-popular former president guilty of having accepted services valued at 3.7 million reais ($1.1 million) from a construction company that benefited from contracts with Petrobras.
The charges rested on the claim that Lula was the real owner of a a beachfront triplex near Sao Paulo registered in the name of OAS, one of the engineering companies implicated in bribing Petrobras executives to secure inflated contracts and diverting some of the extra money to politicians who provided cover for the graft.
Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003-2011, allegedly accepted renovations to the luxury apartment as a reward for giving OAS the inside track on government contracts.
The former head of state denies that he ever owned the apartment, much less benefited from improvements to the property.
Lula faces four other corruption trials that could derail his bid to recapture the presidency in 2018, though he will remain eligible to run until and unless a conviction is upheld on appeal.
Brazilian lawmakers are currently weighing whether to allow a criminal case to proceed against incumbent President Michel Temer, who is accused of accepting bribes from meatpacking giant JBS and of encouraging that company to pay hush money to a former top lawmaker convicted earlier this year in connection with the Petrobras scheme.
Those allegations stem from plea-bargain testimony by JBS executives, including an audio recording in which Temer appears to tell company chairman Joesley Batista that payments to the former speaker of Brazilís lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, needed to continue to prevent him from turning stateís evidence.
Temer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
JBS executives also have told prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony that the company paid tens of millions of dollars to Temerís two immediate predecessors, Dilma Rousseff (ousted via impeachment last year) and Lula, in exchange for political favors.