Prosecutors lay new graft charges against former Lula chief of staff

This file photo taken on February 20, 2013 shows Jose Dirceu, former Brazilian politician and the chief of staff to Lula da Silva's administration from 2003 to 2005, in the commemoration of 10 years in power of the Workers Party (PT) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Februrary 20, 2013. (AFP)
Updated 03 May 2017
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Prosecutors lay new graft charges against former Lula chief of staff

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian prosecutors said on Tuesday they had laid new corruption charges against a one-time chief of staff for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is already serving long jail sentences on other graft convictions.
Prosecutors accused Jose Dirceu, who was released from jail pending an appeal, of taking 2.4 million reais ($755,880) in bribes from two engineering firms — UTC Engenharia SA and Engevix Engenharia SA.
The money was allegedly used for public relations efforts to improve Dirceu’s image before, during and after a 2012 trial, in which he was convicted in a widespread scheme of making monthly payments to congressmen to win support for legislation.
Over the past year, courts have sentenced Dirceu in two separate trials to a collective 32 years in jail on corruption, money-laundering and conspiracy charges. They stemmed from a wide-ranging probe of graft at state-owned oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras.
Despite the earlier convictions and the new charges, Brazil’s Supreme Court accepted a habeas corpus plea on Tuesday filed by Dirceu’s defense and ordered his release from jail.
A five-member chamber of the top court ruled by 3 votes to 2 that he should be freed pending an appeal. Under Brazilian law, prison sentences are served after the loss of a first appeal.
Engevix did not respond to a request for comment on the new bribery charges, and a lawyer for Dirceu was not immediately available for reaction.
A UTC Engenharia spokesman said the company would have nothing to say on the matter.


Philippines ‘apologizes’ to Kuwait after rescuing domestic workers

Updated 7 min 13 sec ago
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Philippines ‘apologizes’ to Kuwait after rescuing domestic workers

  • Rodrigo Duterte last month ordered workers in Kuwait to return over reports of abuse
  • There are 600 Filipino workers in embassy-run halfway houses in Kuwait

MANILA: The Philippines apologized on Tuesday for what Kuwait viewed as violation of its sovereignty after the Southeast Asian nation’s embassy “rescued” several domestic workers from their employers’ homes amid reports of abuse.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the embassy was forced to “assist” Filipino workers who sought help because some situations were a matter of life and death.
“We respect Kuwaiti sovereignty and laws, but the welfare of Filipino workers is also very important,” he said, adding that domestic helpers account for more than 65 percent of the more than 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait.
Cayetano said Kuwait had accepted the Philippines’ explanation after the Kuwaiti ambassador met Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and held talks with Cayetano.
“We’re sending a note now to my counterpart, and we are apologizing for certain incidents that Kuwait views as violation of their sovereignty,” Cayetano told reporters.
Duterte last month ordered workers in Kuwait to return over reports of abuse following the discovery of a domestic worker’s body in a freezer in an abandoned home.
In Saturday’s operation, the workers were taken to shelter houses ran by the embassy and would soon be repatriated, diplomats in Manila said.
“The workers voluntarily went with embassy staff who waited outside the homes of the domestic helpers’ employers,” said a diplomat. The employers did not hand over their passports.
Some workers were persuaded to leave their employers, he said.
The operation was captured on video and posted on social media. “It was not a clandestine operation,” said Elmer Cato, assistant secretary for public diplomacy.
Kuwait had summoned the Philippine ambassador to demand an explanation.
There are 600 Filipino workers in embassy-run halfway houses in Kuwait, Cayetano said, with about 120 more who have sought rescue from employers due abuse and tough working conditions.
Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said part of an agreement with Kuwait was to seek assurance it would to bring those who abused Filipino workers to justice.
“The secretary conveyed our request for Kuwait’s kind understanding of the sworn duty of the government to protect Filipino nationals anywhere in the world,” Roque said in a statement.
Workers in many Gulf states are employed under a sponsorship system that gives employers the right to keep their passports and exercise full control over their stay.
Rights groups say the system leaves millions of workers in the region open to exploitation.