11 April 2018
Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sent to jail on Saturday. While he was in office he was one of the most popular politicians in the history of Brazil. After leaving office he ran for president three times unsuccessfully. He was planning to run for presidency in the 2018 elections. Despite his large lead in opinion polls, he will not be able to contest the election because of his imprisonment. He was sentenced by crusading judge Sergio Moro to nine years in prison. An appeals court upheld and extended the sentence to 12 years. The Brazilian Supreme Court last week ordered him to start serving his sentence immediately.
Massive probe (code named ‘operation car wash’} of Petrobras, the national oil company, was started during Dilma Rousseff’s presidency. The attorney general, Rodrigo Janot , on 5 September 2017 , described the governments of Mr. da Silva and Ms. Rousseff as fronts for a criminal enterprise, which enabled senior politicians to collect roughly $450 million from the state-run oil company Petrobras and the Brazilian National Development Bank.
More than 165 politicians and corporate executives have been jailed and fined for corruption in Brazil as a part of the still unfolding operation Lava Jato, or Car Wash, case.
Operation car wash revealed that about US$800-million in illicit payments made in Brazil and throughout Latin America by Odebrecht, Brazilian construction giant, to secure contracts from Petrobras, the state-owned Brazilian petroleum company, and to buy influence in a dozen other South and Central American nations. Parts of the payments that Odebrecht delivered to the executives of Petrobras were kicked back to the Brazilian politicians and to fund political parties and election campaigns. Odebrecht funds were widely distributed in Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.
Judge Moro asserts that Lula is the kingpin of corruption in Petrobras. Without his implicit and possibly explicit approval, the Car Wash events would have developed only with a lesser force. Lula faces seven more trials on various charges of corruption.
In the past the politicians in the Latin American countries got away with a slap on the wrist or rarely a short stint in prison for corruption offences. The present imprisonment of Lula will be a turning point in political corruption in South America.
One thing good that can be said about the Brazilian politicians is that they have not tried to stop or cover up the probe, operation car wash, unlike In Malaysia, where the investigations into 1MDB were scrapped.
Related post: Brazil: Ex-Presidents da Silva and Rousseff charged of corruption