Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption Wednesday in the first of five trials facing the popular politician.
A federal judge sentenced the former leader of Latin America's biggest country to nine years and six months in prison after his conviction Wednesday. He will remain free while the decision is appealed.
Lula was convicted of accepting $1.2 million in bribes from contractor OAS, which prosecutors said were used for the purchase and renovation of a luxury penthouse apartment in the seaside town of Guaruja. Prosecutors said that in return Lula helped the firm win contracts with state-run oil giant Petrobras.
The verdict by Judge Sergio Moro, who is known for taking a tough stance on politicians and entrepreneurs involved in Brazil's billion-dollar corruption scandal known as Lava Jato, or Car Wash, will be analyzed by the 4th Federal Regional Court, a standard practice. The court takes an average of a year and a half to review sentencing decisions.
Moro will also preside over one of Lula's other four Lava Jato-related trials. The other three will be tried in the Federal Court of Brasilia.
This is the highest-profile conviction to date related to the widespread graft investigation, which has seen several politicians and well-known figures in business fall from grace for their involvement in the sweeping corruption scheme.
They include impeached lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is serving a sentence of 15 years and four months for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion, and former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral, who was sentenced to 14 years and two months in prison on charges of corruption and money laundering.
Lula, who was president from 2003 to 2011, is considered the country's most popular politician and was seen as the top candidate for the 2018 elections in polling company Datafolha's June poll.
Langlois is a special correspondent.
12:30 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.