Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Brazil's Lula appears in court in corruption case

Ex-president is accused of receiving beach apartment as bribe in a wider corruption scheme upending Brazil's politics.

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has appeared in court to testify over his alleged entanglement in a sprawling corruption scandal that has thrown the country's political class into tumult.

Lula, 71, is the highest-profile defendant in the "Operation Car Wash" probe into a multi-billion-dollar bribery scheme in which politicians and officials allegedly handed out public contracts in exchange for kickbacks.

He is accused of allowing corruption to flourish between 2003-2010 during his two terms as president and of personally benefiting from the schemes, including receiving a beach apartment in return for helping the OAS construction firm win government contracts.

His testimony in the southern city of Curitiba was scheduled to begin at 2pm local time (17:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

The former president, whose supporters gathered outside the court hours before his arrival there, has repeatedly denied all charges.

A ruling by Judge Sergio Moro, who has spearheaded Brazil's biggest-ever corruption probe, is not expected until July.

RELATED: Lula says prosecutors want to end his career

The investigation centres on construction firms who have already admitted to paying billions in kickbacks in return for lucrative contracts at state-run oil company Petrobras.

The investigation has greatly expanded since it began three years ago and now encompasses several state-run companies.

More than 90 powerful businessmen and politicians have been convicted, while scores of sitting federal congressmen and one-third of President Michel Temer's cabinet are being probed.

Supporters take to streets

Thousands of Lula supporters descended on Curitiba overnight, mostly members of activists groups and unions, arriving in chartered buses from across the country.

They set up makeshift tents along railroad tracks a few kilometers from the federal courthouse.
During his terms in office, Lula - Brazil's first working-class president - greatly expanded the nation's social safety net.

Helped by a booming economy and an innovative cash-transfer programme, his administration helped lift tens of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class.

When he left office in 2010, Lula had an 83 percent approval rating.

He has said he wants to run for president again in 2018, but if he is convicted in any of the trials, and if the ruling is upheld by a second court, he will be legally disqualified from running and likely go to prison.

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