The first of many “votes” in the biggest corruption trial ever dealt with by the Brazilian Supreme Court occurred this past Monday, August 20. This is the big monthly allowance (“mensalão”) trial.
Thirty six defendants are accused of participating in a vote-buying scheme that used public monies to pay members of Congress to support the first Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration during the period 2003-2005.
The first vote in the mensalão trial was cast by the rapporteur, associate justice Joaquim Barbosa, more or less the equivalent of Special Master in cases of original jurisdiction.
He prepares the evidence and factual findings that go into the case file; then, in accordance with court liturgy, he makes an oral presentation to the rest of the court.
Because the mensalão case is so large and complicated (50,000 pages), for the first time in the court’s history Barbosa insisted on having the case file digitized so that all eleven justices could have ready, easy access to it.
Barbosa also innovated in making a further change in court procedure: this very complicated case is being dealt with in parts or slices (“fatiado”).
The justices usually read a single opinion, or vote, on a case. In the mensalão, the votes will come in parts, or slices; the first slice to be dealt with was the financial arm of the corruption ring. Barbosa began by following the money.
In his vote, the rapporteur found the former director of marketing at the Banco do Brasil, Henrique Pizzolato, guilty of malfeasance (“peculato” – misconduct in public office, that is, using his government position and/or government funds in illegal activities), passive corruption and money laundering.
He also found adman Marcos Valério and his business partners, Cristiano Paz and Ramon Hollerbach, who ran the DNA ad agency, guilty of malfeasance and active corruption.
Although not government officials, Barbosa made it clear in a long, detailed opinion that Valério, Paz and Hollerbach were engaged in the misuse of public funds for private ends – that it was government money that fed the slush fund that paid out the mensalão with the money moving from the state-run Banco do Brasil to the advertising agency, DNA.
The schedule for the next Supreme Court session on the mensalão, Wednesday, August 22 (beginning at 2:00 pm), is for associate justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who is the “revisor,” to review Barbosa’s vote.
Free Air Time
Brazil has midterm elections this year when over 5,500 municipalities will elect mayors, vice mayors and city councilmen. It also has public political advertising (“propaganda eleitoral gratuita”) and it begins today on radio and television.
The ads are mandatory and will run until October 4 (the first round of elections are on October 7). Candidates are allowed to run ads in newspapers and on the internet until October 5, and use sound cars until October 6 (this is advertising they pay for out of pocket).
Runoff elections will take place, where necessary, in cities with populations of over 200,000, on October 28. There will be another period of public political ads (October 13 to 25) before they take place.
This public political advertising on radio and television is free for political parties but the Brazilian government pays broadcasters for the time. They get a tax break worth an estimated 600 million reais (US$ 300 million).