BRASILIA – The Brazilian Supreme Court granted on Tuesday probation to former government minister Jose Dirceau, a key confidant of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva serving three prison sentences for his participation in the Petrobras corruption network.
The high court on Tuesday voted 3-2 to accept a petition of habeas corpus in which Dirceu’s defense team contended that the former official can await confirmation of his sentences by the court, which are currently being appealed, outside of prison.
Dirceu, who was the all-powerful Cabinet chief during the early years of Lula’s first term (2003-2007) in office, has been in custody since August 2015, during which time he has been investigated for his links to the scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state-run oil company.
Dirceu had been convicted in December 2012 by the Supreme Court and sentenced to seven years behind bars in a corruption case.
In November 2013, he was released from prison for the first time, but a year later he was placed under house arrest.
In May 2015, Dirceau was sentenced to 23 years in prison in a case linked to the diversion of funds from Petrobras and in March 2017 he was convicted to 11 years behind bars, also for corrupt practices involving Petrobras.
In both of those cases, he was found guilty of passive corruption, money laundering and criminal association.
But three of the five high court magistrates on Tuesday determined that Dirceau, 71, may be released from prison – albeit under restricted conditions, probably house arrest or wearing an ankle monitor – while he awaits the result of his appeals.
Dirceau, who for decades was a key adviser to Lula during his political career, had to resign as chief of staff in mid-2005 after he was indicted in the parliamentary bribery scandal.