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Lebanese-Brazilian billionaire politician jailed for corruption

Published: Updated:

One of Brazil's longest-serving politicians, a former mayor of Sao Paulo, Paulo Salim Maluf, surrendered to police Wednesday to start a nearly eight year prison sentence for money laundering.

Brazil's entire political class is mired in corruption scandals uncovered by prosecutors and police over the last four years and Paulo Maluf, 86, is seen by many as a symbol of long-running impunity for acts stretching back decades.

Currently a congressional deputy, Maluf was convicted of corruption in May by the Supreme Court. He has also been on Interpol's wanted list since 2010 for allegedly attempting to launder money abroad.

In 2015, he was sentenced in absentia by a Paris court to three years prison and a 200,000 euro fine for aggravated money laundering.

An ally of President Michel Temer, who also faces corruption charges, Maluf was mayor of Sao Paulo and also served as governor of the state.

His corruption conviction dates back to laundering of bribes worth some 170 million dollars received during construction projects from his 1993-96 mayoral term.

Maluf's attorneys kept appealing until judge Edson Fachin decided Tuesday that he would start serving his prison term.

No account in Switzerland

Maalouf, was born in 1931 in Sao Paulo, to Lebanese parents who emigrated from the remote town of Zahle in the Lebanese region 60 kilometers from Beirut. He and his wife are grandparents of 13 sons from his four children.

The lawyers suggested that he could serve his sentence at his home in Sao Paulo due to his age and health issues.

The persecutors insist he serves the sentence in jail in Brasilia where they tried him 20 years ago.

"I did not have any bank account in Switzerland," he denied the accusation.

Wanted on Interpol's list

Maluf, who has visited Lebanon twice, is accused of receiving bribes abroad for projects he had done when he was heading the municipality of San Paolo from 1993 to 1996.

He is accused of claiming higher costs than the actual ones, then depositing the difference in his own bank account in Switzerland.

He has constantly denied the charges, which seems to have affected his health, as he is diagnosed with cancer, heart and other diseases, making him unable to walk.

(With AFP)