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Convicts in Brazil's 'trial of the century' to start prison terms

Brazil,Politics, Sun, 17 Nov 2013 IANS

Sao Paulo, Nov 17 (IANS/EFE) High-profile politicians and businessmen have been ordered to prison for their role in a blockbuster vote-buying case in Brazil, marking the first time such major public figures in the South American nation will do hard time for corruption.

The chief justice of the Supreme Federal Court, Joaquim Barbosa, Friday issued arrest orders for 12 of 16 individuals convicted in the "trial of the century" who can no longer appeal at least one of the charges they faced.

Twenty-five out of a total of 38 defendants in the congressional vote-buying scheme, known in Brazil as the "mensalao" (big monthly payoff), were convicted, although nine of them still have not exhausted the appeals process for any of their charges.

One of the defendants who turned himself in Friday was Jose Genoino, a former chairman of the governing Workers Party, or PT, who described himself on his blog before surrendering to police as a "political prisoner".

Genoino was sentenced to six years and 11 months behind bars for bribery and criminal conspiracy, but he could serve his prison time under a semi-open regime that allows him to work during the day and return to the penitentiary at night to sleep.

Also obeying the court order was former presidential chief of staff Jose Dirceu, regarded as the right-hand man of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the time the scandal broke.

Dirceu also was defiant, telling the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that he would "keep fighting" and that "no prison can subdue my conscience".

The case deals with a congressional vote-buying scheme that operated during the first two years of Lula's 2003-2011 tenure.

Dirceu was forced to resign as presidential chief of staff in the summer of 2005 after lawmaker Roberto Jefferson accused the PT of having bribed legislators of other parties to build the congressional majority that the government failed to obtain at the polls in 2002.

The scandal didn't stop Lula from winning a second four-year term in 2006 or from helping his anointed successor, Dilma Rousseff, to prevail in the 2010 presidential contest.

--IANS/EFE

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