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  • Former minister sentenced to 12 years in prison
  • In custody since September, he was convicted
    of taking bribes and money laundering as part of
    a huge corruption network centered on the
    state-owned Petrobras oil company and huge
    construction companies.
    A Brazilian court sentenced Antonio Palocci, an
    influential minister during the leftist
    governments of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and
    Dilma Rousseff, to 12 years in prison for
    corruption Monday.
    He was sentenced to 12 years and two months
    behind bars by Judge Sergio Moro, who heads
    the “Car Wash” probe tackling the giant
    embezzlement and kickbacks scheme.
    The 56-year-old Palocci — a finance minister
    under Lula and chief of staff for Rousseff, both
    from the Workers’ Party — is negotiating a plea
    bargain with prosecutors.
    That could add to the avalanche of evidence
    already driving scores of investigations into
    political leaders including Lula, who faces five
    corruption court cases.
    Moro is currently considering a verdict in one of
    those cases, in which Lula is alleged to have
    received a seaside apartment as a bribe from
    one of Brazil’s biggest construction companies,
    OAS.
    Palocci played a central role in the “Car Wash”
    scheme, most of which unfolded when the
    Workers’ Party was in power from 2003 to 2016,
    when Rousseff was ejected in an impeachment
    procedure for breaking government accounting
    rules.
    Prosecutors said Palocci was a pointman in the
    flow of “bribes between the Odebrecht
    construction group and intermediaries of the
    Workers’ Party,” laundering more than $10
    million used for party campaign finances.
    Odebrecht, an industrial conglomerate with
    projects around the world, named Palocci “the
    Italian” in its list of code names for politicians
    regularly taking bribes in exchange for lucrative
    contracts with Petrobras and other favors.
    Lula has repeatedly denied taking any bribes
    during or after his presidency. He describes
    Moro’s investigation as a campaign to prevent
    his return to power.
    Rousseff’s impeachment last year and
    replacement by her center-right vice president
    Michel Temer was branded by the left as a coup
    d’etat. Lula now hopes to make a dramatic
    comeback in elections set for October 2018.
    However, the multiple corruption cases could
    stop him in his tracks, since an upheld guilty
    verdict would bar him from running for office —
    or potentially see him imprisoned.
    A new opinion poll by Datafolha released
    Monday showed Lula would win the first round
    of a presidential election. However, in a
    hypothetical second round runoff, he would
    draw with environmentalist Marina Silva and
    Moro himself.
    Moro has not declared an interest in running for
    office, but is hugely popular for his anti-
    corruption work.
    Other than his legal troubles, Lula faces the
    handicap of having by far the highest rejection
    rate of any candidate, with 46 percent of
    Brazilians saying they would never vote for him.
    Meanwhile, Temer faces his own crisis with the
    prosecutor general expected to request formal
    corruption charges against the president
    Monday or Tuesday.

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