The Case of Brazil’s Supreme Against PT Leaders Behind Mensalão to Start October 1st

Mensalão scandal On Wednesday, September 12,, the justice-rapporteur in Penal Case 470, known as the mensalão, Joaquim Barbosa, suggested that the sixth chapter, where there are 23 defendants accused of active corruption, passive corruption, conspiracy and money laundering, was just too unwieldy and should be divided it into two parts.

The rapporteur, the auditor and the other eight justices agreed to change the mensalão road map: the 10 defendants facing charges of active corruption will be judged after the 13 defendants charged with passive corruption, conspiracy and money laundering have been dealt with.

The sixth chapter or part of the case goes right to the heart of the mensalão: the alleged payment of more or less regular bribes to members of Congress so they would vote with the government during the first Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration (2003-2005).

According to the prosecution (“Ministério Público Federal – MPF”), and the rapporteur, justice Joaquim Barbosa, who has so far followed the MPF, the payments were made by the PT to members of the PP, PL, PTB and PMDB so they would support the government. The defense admits the payments were made, but claims the money was to pay off campaign debts.

In the oral presentation of his vote last week (Monday, Wednesday and part of Thursday, September 17, 19 and 20, when he spoke for slightly over nine hours), Barbosa absolved only one of the accused, Jacinto Lamas (formerly the treasurer of the PL).

All the other twelve defendants he found guilty (including two federal deputies and a mayor who are presently in office).

The auditor, justice Ricardo Lewandowski, says he intends to conclude his vote on Wednesday, September 26.

As a result, the forecast is for the judgment of active corruption, involving two former ministers of state (cabinet members), the former president of the PT and its former treasurer, along with six others, who are accused of being the masterminds behind the vote-buying scandal, to begin Monday, October 1; that is, during the week of the first round of voting in this year’s municipal elections.

Barbosa and Lewandowski deny the trial has become political. According to Barbosa, the only reason for postponing the active corruption part of the sixth chapter was simply weariness. He said he was just tired after talking so much.

PTB

On Wednesday, September 19, the justice-rapporteur in Penal Case 470, known as the mensalão, Joaquim Barbosa, ruled that the defendants who were members of the PTB, Roberto Jefferson, Romeu Queiroz and Emerson Palmieri were guilty of passive corruption. According to the rapporteur:

“The PTB ensured party fidelity in return for an improper advantage… The payments sustained votes in favor of the government.”

Barbosa explained how Jefferson took over as president of the PTB and commander of the payment scheme run by Marcos Valério and the former PT treasurer, Delúbio Soares, after the death of Jose Carlos Martinez.

And how former deputy Romeu Queiroz requested money from then minister of Transportation, Anderson Adauto. “Queiroz sold his support in exchange for money from the PT that was being handed out to allies in Congress,” said the rapporteur.

As for Palmieri, Barbosa revealed how he traveled to Portugal with Marcos Valério to pick up money.

PL

Barbosa, ruled that the defendants who were members of the PL (presently PR), participated in a criminal scheme in which votes in the Chamber of Deputies were bought.

Barbosa rebutted the defense claim that the payments were made by the PT as part of a deal to pay off political party debts. He also rebuffed the argument that the PL, as the party of vice president, did not have to be paid to vote with the PT.

According to Barbosa, deputy Valdemar Costa Neto, the president of the PL, was guilty of money laundering (ocultar o repasse de dinheiro do chamado “valerioduto”).

According to the rapporteur, it was clear that Costa Neto and Jacinto Lamas, the party treasurer, along with two others (who are not in Penal Case 470 because they negotiated a plea bargain), formed a conspiracy to cover up the fact that the money originally came from the PT. Barbosa pointed out that Costa Neto received 36 checks and another 27 fund transfers.

In his vote, Barbosa announced he was going to absolve the political party treasurer, Jacinto Lamas, of conspiracy because he was involved in only one transaction.

At the end of his vote on the PL defendants, Barbosa found Valdemar Costa Neto and Jacinto Lamas guilty of passive corruption, money laundering and conspiracy. He found Antonio Lamas guilty of money laundering and conspiracy and Bispo Rodrigues guilty of passive corruption and money laundering.

The trial of Penal Case 470, known as “mensalão” (big monthly allowance), in reference to allegations of more or less regular bribes being paid to members of Congress so they would vote with the government during the period 2003-2005, will hold its twenty-eight session today (September 26).

The justice-auditor, Ricardo Lewandowski, is expected to conclude the oral presentation of his vote on charges of passive corruption by 13 politicians who were members of political parties allied with the PT government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (the political parties were the PP, PL, PTB and PMDB).

This stage in the mensalão trial is denominated the first part of Chapter Six (the second part deals with active corruption by another ten defendants who are accused of masterminding the vote buying scheme).

It should be borne in mind that the whole case has no less than 36 defendants charged with numerous counts of seven different crimes (active and passive corruption, malfeasance, bank fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and illegal remittance of funds abroad).

It is being tried at the Supreme Court (an example of original jurisdiction involving a penal case) because under Brazilian legislation all high ranking appointees in government and elected officials have the right to trial at the highest court in the land.

When the mensalão became public in 2005, three of the accused were ministers (cabinet members) in Brasilia and eleven were federal deputies. In the seven years it took the case to reach trial at the Supreme Court, most of the accused left public life. At this moment, only three are still federal deputies and one is a mayor.

Since the beginning of the trial, the justice-rapporteur, Joaquim Barbosa, has been severe in meting out punishment. In the first part of Chapter Six, he found 12 of the 13 defendants guilty of all the crimes they were charged with; absolving only a PL parliamentary aide.

On the other hand, the auditor, Lewandowski, has been less rigid. So far, in part one of Chapter Six, he has voted on nine defendants (in the PP and PL) facing 23 criminal charges finding them guilty of only 13 charges.

As a result, he has absolved three defendants of all charges and six defendants of the charge of money laundering (this is a consequence of a difference of opinion in what the rapporteur and the auditor consider money laundering).

A more significant difference of opinion between the rapporteur and the auditor is with regard to the pivotal question in the mensalão case: was the money used to buy support in Congress (as the prosecution and Barbosa claim) or was it used to pay off campaign debts (as the defense alleges). 

In the few references he has made to the question, Lewandowski has said the payments were “…the fruit of agreements on campaign debts.” But this week he told reporters that his vote was “in constant elaboration. At the appropriate moment, I will present my position.”

After Lewandowski finishes his vote, the other justices will vote in reverse order of seniority: Rosa Weber, Luiz Fux, Antonio Dias Toffoli, Cármen Lúcia, Gilmar Mendes, Marco Aurélio Mello, Celso de Mello and the Chief Justice, Carlos Ayres Britto.

The judgment of the second part of Chapter Six is expected to begin only next week, on October 1. The defendants in this part of the case, linked to Marcos Valério and the PT, are all charged with active corruption.

ABr

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