Lula’s right-hand man gets almost 11 years in prison in Mensalão case


The Federal Supreme Court of Brazil (STF) condemned former Lula’s right-hand man to almost 11 years in prison for his participation in the corruption scheme known as the Mensalão. Jose Dirceu, who many label as the strong man in Lula’s administration was convicted of bribery and criminal association to command a network of bribes to legislators. The Mensalão scheme operated from 2003 to 2005. Twenty other people were also found guilty along with Dirceu, who has challenged the outcome of the trial, labeling it of ‘political persecution’.

The other five Supreme Court judges who convicted Dirceu unanimously supported the proposal of the chief judge, Joaquim Barbosa, to impose a sentence of two years and eleven months for criminal association.

The approval of the sentence to seven years and eleven months in prison for the crime of bribery recommended by Barbosa, in turn, was decided by four votes in favor and one against. The opposing vote came from judge Carmen Lucia, who recommended a sentence of three years, nine months and 15 days in jail. Since the sentence adds to more than eight years in total, Jose Dirceu will have to remain in jail for at least two years. In addition, he will have to pay a fine of nearly $ 330,000.

The judge argued  that Dirceu played a “prominent role” in shaping the pattern of paying bribes to legislators in exchange for their support for the proposals submitted to Congress by the government of the Workers Party (PT ). According to Joaquim Barbosa, the position of power that Dirceu had in government “was politically essential to hide the actions of the gang.”

The so-called ‘trial of the century’ also condemned former PT president, Jose Genoíno to six years and eleven months’ imprisonment and eight years and eleven months were given to former party treasurer, Delubio Soares. Jose Dirceu’s attorney, José Luis Oliveira Lima, said the former minister will use “all resources” to overturn his conviction, and even seeks to raise an action to the International Court of Human Rights. In the last few days, the office of the Attorney General called for the confiscation of the passports from the convicted men in an attempt to prevent them from fleeing the country.

“The Supreme (Federal Court) did not analyze the evidence with due correction. The documents generated during the process proved the innocence of my client,” argued Dirceu’s attorney. Also, the lawyer for former PT president José Genoino, said his client “vigorously disagrees” with the judgment of the STF, but that he will respect it and face it “with the chest open and the head up.”

According to the Court, the penalties applied to the men convicted in the Mensalão case were defined throughout the trial that sentenced 25 people in total; including politicians, businessmen and bankers who had ties to the corruption scandal that threatened to bring down Lula’s government back in 2005. Other convicts of lesser political relevance, such as publicist Marcos Valerio de Souza, appointed as the operator of the illegal scheme, received larger convictions.

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