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Ex-politicians convicted in Brazil vote-buying scandal

Brazil's Supreme Court has convicted three top aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of corruption in a landmark ruling. The three were found guilty of buying support for Lula's leftist government.

The court on Tuesday found Lula's former chief of staff Jose Dirceu, co-founder of the ruling Workers' Party, guilty of running a vote-buying scheme between 2002 and 2005, during the president's first term in office. The scheme saw monthly payments to politicians in exchange for their votes in Congress.

The head of Lula's ruling Workers' Party (PT) at the time, former guerrilla Jose Genoino, and its treasurer, Delubio Soares, were convicted of corruption.

They were among two dozen others who have gone before the Supreme Court over the scandal known as "Mensalao," (big monthly payments). Of the 37 legislators, business men and bankers on trial, 30 have been found guilty.

The sentences will not be announced until the end of the trial, although the three officials face between two and 12 years in prison.

The case dubbed the "trial of the century," marks the first Supreme Court conviction of a politician on corruption charges.

The corruption allegations first arose in 2005 almost costing Lula his re-election. Nevertheless he returned to power in 2006 and governed for a further four years. Lula himself has not been implicated in the case.

ccp/jm (AFP, Reuters)