Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: Online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

ENCORE!

Art, sex, money, memory and manga

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Spat over Iran's UN ambassador hampers thawing relations with US

Read more

FOCUS

China trade deal: Is Taiwan's identity under threat?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Call it a caretaker government'

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria's Battles

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria's Battles (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Pornography without borders is key benefit of EU, says French MEP

Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • Pro-Russia separatists ‘seize’ Ukrainian armoured vehicles

    Read more

  • Acclaimed Belgian conservationist shot in eastern Congo

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Rescue effort under way as ferry sinks off S. Korean coast

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

  • Syria 'torture' photos silence UN Security Council members

    Read more

  • Paris laboratory loses deadly SARS virus samples

    Read more

  • More than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in northeast Nigeria

    Read more

  • New York police disband unit targeting Muslims

    Read more

  • 'Miracle girl' healthy after seven-organ transplant in Paris

    Read more

  • Paris police memo calling for Roma eviction ‘rectified’

    Read more

  • Burgundy digs into France's bureaucratic 'mille-feuille'

    Read more

  • French court drops ‘hate speech’ case against Bob Dylan

    Read more

  • Algeria rights crackdown slammed ahead of election

    Read more

  • Iraq closes notorious Abu Ghraib jail over security fears

    Read more

  • Berlusconi sentenced to community service for tax fraud

    Read more

  • In ‘Tom at the Farm’, Xavier Dolan blends Hitchcock and homoeroticism

    Read more

  • US to mark one year since Boston Marathon bombing

    Read more

  • India's Supreme Court establishes third gender category

    Read more

  • Paris hotel that hosted Holocaust survivors shuts for renovation

    Read more

Americas

Dozens of Lula-era officials go on trial in Brazil

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-08-03

A landmark bribery trial starts Thursday in Brazil that could mar the legacy of popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or "Lula" (right). Thirty-eight former ministers, lawmakers and businessmen are charged with buying votes in Congress.

AFP - Brazil's biggest ever bribery trial began Thursday with dozens of former officials facing vote-buying charges in a case that could tarnish the legacy of popular ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In what the media has dubbed "the trial of the century," 38 former ministers, lawmakers, businessmen and bankers face prosecution before the Supreme Court over alleged vote-buying in Congress between 2002 and 2005.

Supreme Court Justice Carlos Ayres Britto opened proceedings by naming each defendant and detailing the charges, which range from embezzlement and money laundering to corruption and fraud. Those found guilty face up to 45 years in prison.

Britto quickly slapped down a defense claim that the court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

Known as "Mensalao" (big monthly payments), the scandal embroils senior members of Lula's Workers Party (PT) and Brazil's ruling coalition, but more broadly sheds light on the now-reviled practices of the entire political establishment.

Lula, the founder and leader of the leftist party who first took office in January 2003, is not among the defendants. He was followed in office by fellow PT member Dilma Rousseff in January 2011.

According to charges that first surfaced in 2005, during Lula's first term, PT members allegedly offered bribes to members of Congress in exchange for their votes.

Prosecutors allege that the bribe money was skimmed from the advertising budgets of state-owned companies through a company owned by businessman Marcos Valerio de Souza, one of the accused.

None of the 38 accused have been arrested, and none of them were in court.

Lula, now 66 and recovering from throat cancer, said Thursday that he would not follow the proceedings. "The attorneys are the ones that have to be there," he told reporters in Sao Paulo.

The ex-president has maintained that he was betrayed and offered public apologies on behalf of the PT. The party denied any vote-buying or Mensalao payments in a statement ahead of the trial.

A lawyer for PT lawmaker Roberto Jefferson, who exposed the alleged vote-buying scheme in 2005, said he would ask during the trial why Lula is not among the accused.

"It is a test for the Brazilian political system. Its credibility is at stake," said David Fischer, a political scientist at Brasilia University.

Those implicated include Lula's ex-chief of staff Jose Dirceu, ex-communications minister Luiz Gushiken, and ex-transportation minister Anderson Adauto, as well as nearly a dozen former legislators in the governing coalition.

Prosecutors believe that Dirceu, a 66-year-old lawyer, former PT leader and Lula's political enforcer during his first term in office, was the mastermind behind the corruption network. If found guilty, he faces at least 15 years prison.

According to the opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), up to $50 million was doled out in bribes.

However, a lawyer for Dirceu insists there were no Mensalao payments.

"There was no so-called vote-buying," the lawyer, Jose Luiz Oliveira Lima, told the daily O Globo on Wednesday.

"There is no proof of any use of public money. Dozens of witnesses categorically say that Dirceu had no knowledge of the loans and (money) transfers," he said.

Earlier, Attorney General Roberto Gurgel called the case "the most daring and outrageous corruption scheme and embezzlement of public funds ever seen in Brazil."

The first day of the trial ended late Thursday. Defense arguments are scheduled for Friday.

The trial, which has received blanket coverage in the Brazilian media, is expected to last one month.

The case could affect the outcome of municipal elections in October that will set the political map for the 2014 presidential vote.

This is Brazil's highest-profile corruption scandal 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.

Date created : 2012-08-03

  • BRAZIL

    Rousseff leads polls as Brazilians pick new president

    Read more

  • BRAZIL

    In remote Amazon, Lula legacy makes case for Rousseff

    Read more

  • BRAZIL

    Brazilians head to polls to elect Lula's successor

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)