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Brazil judge freezes ex-president Lula's assets

An anti-corruption judge ordered assets of former President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva frozen after the leader was sentenced to almost ten years in prison for graft. The popular politician remains free pending an appeal.

The court's decision applies to Lula de Silva's bank accounts, as well as three apartments, a plot of land, and two cars, with the total assets estimated at $4.3 million (3.7 million euros), Brazils' leading anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro said on Wednesday.

Last week, Moro sentenced the ex-president to 9.5 years in jail for taking bribes. The politician, widely known as "Lula," is just one of Brazil's key political and business leaders who faced charges over the massive "Car Wash" corruption scandal.

The judge said the freeze was necessary "for the reparation of damages that originated in the crimes." He added that some of the money has been lost as part of lucrative contracts with state oil company Petrobras.

"It was not possible to trace the rest of the bribes paid in connection with the corruption at Petrobras," Moro wrote. "It is possible it has been used to illegally finance electoral campaigns."

The judge is currently enjoying a growing popularity in Brazil as an anti-corruption crusader.

Lula rejects accusations

Previously, Moro also ordered the seizure of a luxury beachfront apartment in the city of Guaruja, Sao Paulo state, which a construction firm allegedly promised to Lula for securing three contracts with Petrobras.

Brasilien Richter Sergio Moro (Getty Images/AFP/E. Sa)

Sergio Moro is hailed as a hero but also derided by many in Brazil

Lula's has repeatedly rejected any wrongdoing and denied that the apartment was ever his property. He has portrayed his trial as a witch-hunt aimed to prevent him from running for president again next year. The politician, who served as the head of state between 2003 and 2010, pledged he would appeal the graft ruling. He remains free pending the end of the legal process.

Trouble at the top

Lula's lawyers also slammed Wednesday's seizure as "illegal" and said they would appeal the decision.

"This decision makes all Lula's assets and values unavailable to him, which hampers his and his family's ability to live. It is yet another arbitrary decision among many others committed by the same judge against former president Lula," his representatives Cristiano Zanin and Zuleika Martins said.

Lula enjoyed immense popularity by the end of his term, handing over the reins to his protégé Dilma Rousseff, a candidate of his Workers' Party. However, Rousseff was impeached over corruption charges, leaving her rival Michel Temer from the Brazilian Democratic Movement at the helm. Temer now also faces allegations of corruption.

dj/bk (AFP, AP)

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