Former Brazilian leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was on Wednesday convicted of corruption and money laundering and sentenced to nine and half years in prison.
However, Lula, who was president between 2003 and 2010, will remain free on appeal.
In the first of five trials, judge Sergio Moro found Lula guilty of accepting 3.7 million reais (£890,000) 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.
“The present conviction does not bring this judge any personal satisfaction. Quite the contrary, it is regrettable that a former president be criminally convicted,” Federal Judge Sergio Moro wrote in his decision.
“It doesn’t matter how high you are, the law is still above you.”
judge Moro said he did not order Lula’s immediate arrest because the conviction of a president is such a serious matter that he felt an appeal should be heard first.
The 71-year old Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is leading polls for next year’s presidential election had said the charges against him are completely unfounded.
The case will now be heard by a group of magistrates. If they uphold the conviction, Brazilian law says that Lula would be barred from seeking office.
The ruling marked a stunning fall for Lula who was Brazil’s first working-class president who left office six years ago with an 83 percent approval rating.
The former 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 has once described Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as one of the most popular politicians on earth.