Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was convicted on corruption charges on Wednesday and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.
The ruling marked a stunning fall for Lula, one of the country’s most popular politicians and a top contender to win next year’s presidential election.
He faces four more corruption trials and will remain free on appeal.
Judge Sergio Moro found Lula, 71, guilty of accepting 3.7 million reais ($1.2 million) worth of bribes from engineering firm OAS SA, the amount of money prosecutors said the company spent refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his help winning contracts with state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro (PETR4.SA).
Federal prosecutors have accused Lula, Brazil’s first working-class president from 2003 to 2011, of masterminding a long-running corruption scheme that was uncovered in a probe into kickbacks around Petrobras.
Lula’s legal team said in an emailed statement that he was innocent and they would appeal.
“For over three years, Lula has been subject to a politically motivated investigation,” they wrote. “No credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence blatantly ignored.”
The verdict represented the highest-profile conviction in Brazil.