The conviction of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of corruption on July 12 and his sentencing to nine-and-a-half years in prison, was a once-in-several-generations type of seismic event in Brazil. No former Brazilian president had ever been convicted of a crime. The background to this event will ring familiar to many South Africans and may even give us hope for the future in our political environment. The seeds of the conviction were sown in 2014 with what appeared at the time to the Brazilian Federal Police to be just another routine money-laundering investigation in which the suspects regularly met at a carwash in Brasília to exchange ill-gotten gains. Unfortunately for many of Brazil’s biggest companies and most prominent politicians, it was where one of Brazil’s most notorious money launderers, Alberto Youssef, changed bribes received for lucrative contracts involving state contracts for Brazil’s biggest companies, such as state oil giant Petrobras and sever...

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