Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who rose from childhood poverty to become a two-term president, was convicted on corruption charges on Wednesday in the first of five graft trials he faces.
He was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. He will remain free on appeal.
The ruling marked a stunning fall for Lula, Brazil’s first working-class president who left office six years ago with an 83-percent approval rating. The former union leader won global admiration for transformative social policies that helped reduce stinging inequality in Latin America’s biggest country.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama once labeled him the most popular politician on earth.
The verdict represented the highest-profile conviction yet in the sweeping corruption investigation that for over three years has rattled Brazil, revealing a sprawling system of graft at top levels of business and government and throwing the country’s political system into disarray.
Judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting 3.7 million reais ($1.2 million) worth of bribes from engineering firm OAS SA, the amount prosecutors said the company spent refurbishing a beach apartment for Lula in return for his help winning contracts with state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro.