In a historic trial that resumes today, members of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal will decide whether public funds were used for monthly political payouts in Brazil’s infamous 2005 mensalão scandal.
The verdict delivered this week has implications on the legacy of former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, whose government is implicated in the scandal. The case revolves around accusations that members of Lula’s Worker’s Party (PT) bribed Brazilian lawmakers to back PT initiatives in Congress using money from state-owned companies. In all, 37 defendants, including Lula’s chief of staff, José Dirceu, and other senior officials, will be judged on a variety of felony charges that include money laundering and vote-buying.
On Monday, six of the 11 Supreme Court justices weighed in on whether the former president of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, João Paulo Cunha, and the former director of Banco do Brasil, Henrique Pizzolato, are guilty of corruption, alongside Marcos Valério, a businessman at the center of the scandal, and Valério’s two business partners, Ramon Hollerbach and Cristiano Paz.
All justices who spoke on Monday unanimously condemned Pizzolato, Valério, Hollerbach, and Paz, though they disagreed on whether Cunha was guilty of corruption. The remaining justices are scheduled to speak on Wednesday and Thursday, including Cezar Peluso, who is scheduled to retire from the bench when he turns 70 next Monday.
Dozens of Brazilian political figures and public officials have already been dismissed as a result of the scandal, though corruption has long played a major role in Brazilian politics. The federal auditor’s office has fired nearly 4,000 public employees since 2003, mostly for corruption, and blacklisted thousands of companies and individuals for corrupt business practices.
Brazilian Attorney General Roberto Gurgel said that the court’s swiftness in the voting thus far indicates that the charges against the defendants are serious. "This was important because it demonstrates that we aren’t dealing with light accusations,” he said.