May 10, 2005 A grainy black and white video is made public showing a mid-level official at the Post Office receiving a wad of money. In the video he reveals that kickbacks and bribery is common practice in a corruption ring at the Post Office headed by federal deputy, Roberto Jefferson.
June 6, 2005 In a newspaper interview, Roberto Jefferson, the president of the PTB, denounces a corruption scheme in the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government in which members of Congress receive monthly payments to support government projects. Hence the name: big monthly allowance (“mensalão”).
June 9, 2005 A parliamentary investigative committee (“CPI dos Correios”) is established to investigate corruption at the Post Office..
June 16, 2005 José Dirceu, the powerful presidential Chief of Staff (“ministro-chefe da Casa Civil), who Roberto Jefferson says is the leader of the mensalão, resigns and returns to take his seat in the Chamber of Deputies where he represents the state of São Paulo.
June 20, 2005 A second CPI is established. This is the mensalão CPI.
September 14, 2005 Roberto Jefferson is expelled from the Chamber of Deputies (“mandato cassado”) for misconduct (“quebra de decoro”).
November 16, 2005 The mensalão CPI ends without making any charges against anyone. It is also unable to agree on a text for the committee’s final report.
December 1, 2005 José Dirceu is expelled from the Chamber of Deputies for his participation in the vote-buying scheme denounced by Roberto Jefferson.
March 15, 2006 Pedro Correa, president of the PP, is expelled from the Chamber of Deputies as more misdoings come to light in the mensalão scheme.
April 5, 2006 After nine months of investigations, the CPI dos Correios ends its work. Deputy Osmar Serraglio (PMDB-PR), the committee “redator,” writes a final report that calls for indictments against 100 people.
April 11, 2006 Brazil’s chief federal prosecutor (“procurador-geral da República”), Antonio Fernando de Souza, convinced that criminal activities took place, files a suit at the Supreme Court against 40 people for their participation in the mensalão.
The reason the case goes to the Brazilian Supreme Court is that high-ranking authorities and elected officials have what is known as privileged criminal venue (“foro privilegiado”), meaning that they can only be tried before the nation’s highest court.
August 11, 2007 The Supreme Court begins hearings to decide whether or not it will take the mensalão case.
August 22, 2007 The Supreme Court decides it will accept the mensalão case.
January 24, 2008 The former secretary general of the PT, Silvio Pereira, who is accused of conspiracy in the mensalão case, works out a plea bargain with prosecutors (“faz acordo com o Ministério Público”) and is removed from the list of the accused (“deixa de ser réu”)
September 14, 2010 One of the accused in the mensalão case now before the Supreme Court, former deputy JoséJanene, dies at the age of 55. Janene was a leader of the PP in the Chamber of Deputies when the mensalão became public.
June 9, 2011 Almost four years after the Supreme Court accepted the mensalão case, associate justice Joaquim Barbosa, the redator, announces that he has concluded his task of bringing together all the evidence (“reunião de provas”) and that he is beginning the final phase of his work..
July 7, 2011 The chief federal prosecutor, Roberto Gurgel, presents his final brief on the mensalão case in which he reaffirms the position of his predecessor to move ahead with prosecution. However, he removes two defendants for lack of evidence (Luiz Gushiken, formerly the head (minister) of the Secretariat of Social Communication, and Antonio Lamas, a parliamentary aide).
December 19, 2011 Justice Joaquim Barbosa concludes his work and sends it to justice Ricardo Lewandowski for revision (Lewandowski is the “revisor” who will review the whole case; that is, the prosecutor’s brief, the evidence and Barbosa’s summary. The objective is to ensure that the case is on solid legal footing).
June 6, 2012 The Supreme Court puts the mensalão on its docket, scheduling the beginning of the trial for August.
June 26, 2012 Justice Ricardo Lewandowski concludes his work and releases the case for trial.
July 2012 During the month of July the Supreme Court is in recess.
August 2, 2012 The mensalão trial begins. The process is very different from what happens in the US Supreme Court where as almost all cases come up from lower courts there is a petitioner and a respondent who present briefs and the court issues writs of certiorari.
The mensalão would be called “original jurisdiction,” something that is very limited in the US, but encompasses all cases involving any elected or high-ranking authority in Brazil.
On trial are 36 people accused on numerous counts of conspiracy, active and/or passive corruption, malfeasance (misuse of public office or resources for private gain), illegally sending money abroad, money laundering and embezzlement.
As such, the mensalão is officially known as Penal Case 470 and there is a prosecutor (the chief federal prosecutor who presented his not very brief brief in five hours) and the defense lawyers for the 36 defendants who are limited to an hour to present their arguments before the eleven Supreme Court justices.
Although it is possible, it is not usual for Brazilian Supreme Court justices to ask questions during the oral presentations by the prosecutor and the defense lawyers.