Top figures found guilty in Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal turned themselves in to police on Friday, just days after the Supreme Court in Brasilia ruled they must begin serving their prison sentences, a blow to long-standing immunity in the country where the rich and powerful rarely face punishment for crimes.
The case involves a scheme that came to light in 2005 in which top aides to former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva paid off legislators so they would support the ruling Workers Party initiatives in Congress. Silva was never implicated.
Jose Genoino, the former leader of Brazil’s ruling Workers Party, and Jose Dirceu, Silva’s former chief-of-staff, were among those who turned themselves in.
Genoino was sentenced to nearly seven years for conspiracy and bribery. Dirceu got nearly 12 years for the same crimes.
In September, the top court weighed a technical wrinkle in the case and decided that defendants had the right to a new trial for the criminal counts for which they earlier received at least four not-guilty votes from the panel of 11 top court judges
That means 12 defendants will get new trials for some specific counts, including Dirceu and Genoino for conspiracy, and Joao Cunha, the ex-leader of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, for money laundering.
Those new trials are expected next year.
The move will not totally clear most of the defendants because they were convicted on at least one other charge by too wide of a margin to allow for an appeal. But it could allow them to win a less harsh kind of imprisonment and be eligible for parole earlier.
Some, like Dirceu, may avoid serving their sentences full-time in prison by being placed in a “semi-open” regime that allows them to do supervised work during the day and sleep in prison at night.