Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was acquitted due to lack of evidence Monday in one of the corruption cases for which he was being tried, it was announced.
Together with Lula, other six officials who had also been charged with favouring auto companies in exchange for bribes were found not guilty.
Judge Frederico Botelho de Barros Viana maintained the prosecution did not “convincingly demonstrate” how the former president and his chief of staff “had participated in the supposedly criminal context.”
The magistrate also specified that “there are elements that demonstrate the performance of Mauro Marcondes' company - Marcondes and Mautoni - in terms of the extension of tax benefits to CAOA and MMC companies, there is no adequate evidence and not even minimally capable of demonstrating the existence of an illicit adjustment between the accused to transfer amounts in favour of Lula and Carvalho,” about former Cabinet Chief Gilberto Carvalho, who was also secretary of the Presidency under Dilma Rousseff.
The Prosecutor's Office had accused the former president in 2017 of modifying, in exchange for alleged bribes, a legislative measure to favour companies in the automotive sector through an extension of tax benefits for five years, but the accusation was later dismissed and in the closing arguments in May it had requested Lula's acquittal.
Therefore, the judge pointed out, it is safe to conclude that the prosecution lacks elements that can support, beyond all reasonable doubt, a possible conviction against the accused.
The case was a part of “Operation Zelotes,” which since 2015 has been probing alleged irregularities in the CARF, the treasury department in charge of sanctioning tax fraud, and which has also affected several important bankers and politicians.
Lula, who has spent 580 days in prison for alleged causes of corruption, was favoured by a Supreme Court ruling that annulled other penalties weighed against him and restored him his political rights which would allow him to run in the presidential election against the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in October 2022, where he is regarded by most pollsters as an undisputed favourite.