Lula aide sentenced to prison in Brazil graft trial

Raymond Colitt – Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/12/2012

Brazil’s Supreme Court sentenced a top aide to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to prison, the first time the high court has ordered an ex-Cabinet member to jail for corruption since the return of democracy.

Former Cabinet chief Jose Dirceu was sentenced yesterday to almost 11 years for masterminding a scheme to siphon off public funds used to bribe legislators in the first two years of Lula’s 2003-2011 government. Dirceu, a leader of the ruling Workers’ Party who was once considered Lula’s potential successor, was also fined 646,000 reais ($315,000) as part of his conviction on criminal conspiracy and corruption charges.

Putting a former Cabinet member behind bars may reinforce the fight to clean up government in Latin America’s biggest economy, which ranks behind Cuba and Saudi Arabia in Transparency International’s annual ranking of corruption around the world. Graft costs the world’s sixth-largest economy as much as 85 billion reais a year, nearly double what the government spent on roads, ports and airports in 2011, according to estimates by the Sao Paulo Industry Federation.

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