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LatinNews Daily - 14 June 2016

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Brazil: STF hands Lula case back to Moro

Development: On 13 June Teori Zavaskci, a judge in Brazil’s supreme court (STF), sent the investigation into former president Lula da Silva (2003-2011) back to Sérgio Moro, the lead investigative judge in ‘Operation Car Wash’, the investigation into corruption at the state-run oil firm Petrobras.

Significance: The move is likely to accelerate the legal proceedings against Lula, who is accused of receiving an upgrade to a luxury apartment and other benefits from construction companies involved in the Petrobras corruption scheme. If found guilty, not only might the former president face jail time, but he would also be ineligible to run for office for eight years under Brazil’s ‘clean-slate law’. Despite the allegations against him, and the troubles of his party, the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), Lula remains one of Brazil’s most popular politicians and would potentially be a formidable candidate in 2018.

  • Lula’s case was sent to the STF after Moro released secret tape recordings of a meeting between Lula and the suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, in which the latter said that she would send Lula the documents related to his swearing in as cabinet chief “in case of necessity”. Opposition activists immediately accused the government of appointing Lula to the cabinet in order to ensure that he benefited from the “privileged forum” of the STF. Sitting government officials can only be tried by Brazil’s highest court, which has a massive backlog of cases.
  • As a result of Moro’s leak, Lula’s ministerial appointment was blocked by another STF judge, Gilmar Mendes. But Zavascki has now ruled that the secretly taped recording is inadmissible as evidence, because it was recorded hours after the judicial warrant permitting the measure had expired. As Lula is not currently a sitting government official, he is not eligible to be judged by the STF; as such the case returns to Moro, who requested the “coercive detention” of Lula back in March.

Looking Ahead: So far the only elected politician to face trial by the STF over Operation Car Wash is Eduardo Cunha, the suspended speaker of the federal chamber of deputies. Later today (14 May) a congressional ethics committee is due to vote on whether to strip Cunha of his parliamentary mandate.