A former aide to ex-Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced by the country’s Supreme Court on Tuesday to nearly 11 years in prison for misusing his office.
Jose Dirceu, who was the chief of staff for the Lula administration, was convicted of using public funds in a scheme to buy support from opposition parties in crucial votes. Dirceu was also one of the founders of the Brazilian Workers’ Party.
Joaquim Barbosa, the acting judge in the case, said that Dirceu had undermined democracy in Brazil.
“It was a crime aimed at inflicting grave injury to our democracy, which is characterized by dialogue and differing views among the elected representatives of the people,” he said, according to the Financial Times, citing local media.
“It was this dialogue that the defendant wanted to subvert through the payment of hefty sums of cash to party leaders.”
Lula, who has spent years, battling throat cancer until earlier this year, was not implicated in the case.
Jorge Abrahao, the head of the Sao Paulo-based Ethos group, which promotes business ethics, told Business Week: “It’s a very important message for society, as this sentence contributes to eliminating a widespread perception of impunity.”
“Now we need to build on this moment to strengthen institutions and public policy,” he said.
The case was considered a landmark one because politicians and members of the upper class have been accused of using Brazil’s court system to escape punishment.
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