SAO PAULO – Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s legal woes worsened on Wednesday when he was convicted in a new corruption case and sentenced to 12 years and 11 months behind bars.
That sentence is in addition to a 12-year, one-month prison term he began serving last April after an earlier conviction was upheld on appeal.
In the latest case, federal Judge Gabriela Hardt said Lula benefited from renovations totaling some 1 million reais ($271,000) that the construction companies Odebrecht, OAS and Schahin carried out on a country home in Atibaia, a town in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo.
The house is in the name of a longtime friend of Lula’s family, businessman Fernando Bittar, who allowed the former center-left president (in office from 2003-2010) and his relatives to use the residence.
But despite not being the owner of the property, Lula was found to have illegally benefited from the renovations carried out by firms that received inflated contracts from Brazilian state oil company Petrobras during Lula’s administration.
Besides the 73-year-old Lula, Hardt also handed down convictions to several business leaders, including the former chief executive officer of OAS, Jose Adelmario Pinheiro Neto (sentenced to one year, seven months in prison); Emilio Odebrecht, patriarch of the Odebrecht construction giant (three years, three months in prison); and his son, Marcelo Odebrecht (five years, four months in prison).
The corruption conviction is Lula’s second in less than two years.
In July 2017, then-federal Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of having accepted bribes from a construction company in the form of renovations to a seaside condo that the former president never owned or occupied.
An appeals court in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre voted unanimously in January 2018 to uphold that earlier verdict and also increased Lula’s prison sentence to 12 years and one month.
Lula has been behind bars at the Federal Police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba since last April, leading to his being barred from the October 2018 presidential election amid polls showing that he would have won by a wide margin.
Moro had been spearheading the major Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption probe, which was initially focused on a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scandal centered on Petrobras.
But late last year he agreed to serve as justice minister under rightist Jair Bolsonaro, who became Brazil’s president on Jan. 1.
Moro was replaced by Hardt, who in November questioned Lula in connection with the Atibaia case.