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Lula aides convicted of corruption in Brazil

11 october 2012, 14:32
Brazil's Supreme Court on Tuesday found former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's ex-chief of staff guilty of corruption in connection with a vote-buying scheme in Congress, AFP reports.

Jose Dirceu, once Lula's right-hand man, was found guilty by six of the 10 judges in connection with the scheme that ran from 2002 to 2005 during Lula's first term, a court spokesman said.

The head of Lula's ruling Workers Party (PT) at the time, former guerrilla Jose Genoino, and its treasurer, Delubio Soares, were also convicted for corruption.

The three officials are among 37 former ministers, lawmakers, businessmen and bankers on trial before the Supreme Court over the scandal known as "Mensalao" (big monthly payments).

The justices said the trio distributed money to lawmakers to "illegally secure the support of other political parties to form a ruling government coalition."

Dirceu, 66, is viewed as the main culprit in the high-profile trial that threatens to tarnish the legacy of the popular Lula.

The scandal nearly cost Lula his re-election in 2006. But the 66-year-old founder and leader of the leftist PT was cleared.

Lula was easily re-elected in 2006 and handed over power to his protegee and fellow PT member Dilma Rousseff at the end of his second four-year term.

Since the trial opened in early August, 22 of the defendants have already been found guilty.

Earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Joaquim Barbosa said that evidence showed Dirceu "masterminded the operations" of Soares the treasurer and businessman Marcos Valerio.

Prosecutors alleged the bribe money was skimmed from advertising budgets of state-owned companies through a company owned by Valerio, also among the accused.

Dirceu was forced to resign in 2005 when the graft scandal came to light. But Lula's top lieutenant has always denied paying bribes to lawmakers.

None of the accused, who face charges ranging from embezzlement and money laundering to corruption and fraud, have been arrested, and none of them are in court.

The sentences will not be announced until the end of the trial, which could run for several more weeks.

Lula, who is recovering from throat cancer, previously insisted he was betrayed and offered public apologies on behalf of his party.

The trial marks the most significant corruption case in Brazil since president Fernando Collor de Melo resigned in 1992 after serving half of his four-year term in office.

A Senate trial found him guilty of corruption and barred him from public office for eight years.

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