HomeNewsBriefBrazil Ex-President to Be Jailed After Losing Another Judicial Battle
BRIEF

Brazil Ex-President to Be Jailed After Losing Another Judicial Battle

BRAZIL / 5 APR 2018 BY ANGELIKA ALBALADEJO EN

Brazil's highest court has rejected a petition by former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva seeking to stay out of jail as he continues his fight against a conviction on corruption charges. Despite his imminent imprisonment, Lula's case illustrates a number of ways that elites can work Brazil's judicial system to their advantage.

Brazil’s Supreme Court, in a six to five vote on April 5, rejected the legal argument that Lula should remain free until he has exhausted all appeals against a recently upheld conviction tied to the country’s sweeping anti-graft investigations known as Operation Car Wash (“Lava Jato”).

The Supreme Court’s decision affirms a 2016 ruling that once a conviction is upheld on appeal, as Lula’s was earlier this year, the defendant can be jailed. The rulings are likely aimed at ending the frequent practice of elite Brazilians using virtually endless legal appeals to avoid imprisonment.

Judge Sergio Moro ordered Lula to turn himself in to federal authorities by the evening of April 6.

However, once jailed, Lula’s lawyers have the option to submit an unlimited number of further motions seeking for his release, for example on grounds that 72-year-old Lula is facing health concerns or threats to his safety in prison, as BBC Brasil reported. Lula’s defense team could also petition for the politician to serve the majority of his 12-year sentence under house arrest, rather than in jail, which Brazilian courts often grant to older defendants.

In addition, Lula has not yet exhausted his appeals. Two higher courts -- including the Supreme Court, which has denied his attempt to avoid jail time but has not yet ruled on the underlying case -- can still reexamine the legal procedures followed in Lula’s original trial and consider whether his constitutional rights were violated. This process could take anywhere between several months to several years, and could lead to his release if the conviction is tossed out.

Lula may also still have a chance to run as a candidate in Brazil’s October presidential elections, even in spite of his conviction being upheld and the potential that he will soon be in jail. The country’s top electoral court could decide to give Lula an exemption from the 2010 “clean slate” law that bars those convicted of a criminal offense upheld on appeal from running for office for eight years.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the rejection of Lula’s petition to avoid jail time may be considered a significant blow against impunity for Brazilian elites accused of high-level corruption, the unfolding situation surrounding Lula’s case illustrates how favorable the judicial system remains for powerful figures -- and why they have little incentive to change it.

As InSight Crime reported in January when Lula’s conviction was first upheld, the popular leftist icon is just one of many Brazilian elites of all political stripes targeted in recent years by wide-ranging anti-graft efforts. However, within Brazil’s convoluted legal system, politicians and the wealthy are afforded a number of special privileges and numerous avenues for appeal that have helped many stay out of jail.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

Indeed, the recent Supreme Court decision itself may have been influenced by a desire to thwart anti-corruption efforts against former and current politicians.

Justice Gilmar Mendes, an avowed critic of Lula’s Workers’ Party, voted in favor of letting the politician remain free. Mendes’ decision was likely influenced by the fact that he is a close supporter of President Michel Temer who is currently facing his third corruption investigation while in office. Ahead of the vote on Lula's case, Mendes publicly said as much, warning that “if one roots for the imprisonment of A, one must remember that B and C will follow.”

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 27 MAY 2021

While contraband has boomed at the Argentina-Brazil border during the COVID-19 pandemic, wine seems to have been in particularly high…

ELITES AND CRIME / 19 JUN 2017

The arrest in Peru of a mayoral delegate and dozens of his suspected accomplices for running a violent land trafficking…

ELITES AND CRIME / 27 FEB 2019

While he cracks down on gangs, the president of Honduras has largely ignored drug trafficking charges leveled at his family members…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…