Brazil upholds graft jail terms

BRASILIA - In a landmark judgment, Brazil's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld more than a dozen jail terms handed down in a political corruption scandal which broke in 2005.

The court did not say exactly how many of 25 accused would be put behind bars.

But it did confirm several figures who recently wielded considerable political influence face detention under a semi-open regime, allowing day release but nights in the cells.

They include the former chief of staff of ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Jose Dirceu, who was initially sentenced to seven years and 11 months for corruption.

Dirceu stood accused of having orchestrated a vast vote-buying scheme benefiting party lawmakers during Lula's first term in power between 2003-2006.

Dirceu faces further charges in a new trial slated for next year and if his overall sentence tops eight years he will serve time under a closed regime.

Also facing jail are the former chairman of the ruling Workers' Party (PT), Jose GenoĆ­no and former party treasurer Delubio Soares, the court told AFP.

Kickbacks allegedly distributed to opposition lawmakers to back government bills led to the scandal being dubbed "Mensalao" or monthly allowance.

The court had revisited Brazil's biggest ever anti-corruption investigation after a September trial allowed sentencing appeals by 12 of the 25 former Lula party associates.

The 12 were temporary let off when the court initially ruled that despite being found guilty last December they were entitled to a new trial after obtaining at least four votes on the court panel against their original convictions.

That judgment sparked popular anger amid fears they would benefit from reduced prison sentences for convictions on criminal conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Already facing facing jail is former Bank of Brazil marketing director Henrique Pizzolatto, handed a 12-year, seven-month term.

Despite the damage to his administration's image, Lula himself denied any wrongdoing or any knowledge of it and was subsequently reelected in 2006 and left office in 2010 still enjoying high popularity ratings.