The Brazilian Federal Police formally charged former Minister of Finance, Antonio Palocci, with breaking bank secrecy laws. Palocci is charged with illegally obtaining information about a bank account belonging to a caretaker-gardener.
The caretaker, Francenildo Santos Costa, had contradicted congressional testimony made by Palocci when he was minister of Finance.
According to José Batochio, Palocci’s lawyer, the former minister denied giving the order to break into the caretaker’s bank account.
Batochio also said that there is no law against the head of a bank informing the minister of Finance of the existence of unusual activity in a bank account.
"This is normal. There is nothing extraordinary about it. When the police have evidence of a crime, do they commit a crime by having the evidence?" asked Batochio.
"The caretaker’s bank secrecy was broken on March 16, exactly when he was at the Federal Police where he gave them his identity card and bank card. The first reports we have about what happened is that the police broke into his account," added the lawyer.
Batochio went on to say that Palocci denies giving the order to obtain information about the bank account and that after he received the information about the account he destroyed the balance sheet without passing the information on to anyone else.
The former president of the bank where the caretaker had his account, the Caixa Econômica Federal, Jorge Mattoso, who has also been indicted, has testified that he personally gave Palocci a copy of the balance sheet.
Both Palocci and Mattoso resigned on Monday March 27.
In public testimony before a congressional commission in January, then minister of Finance, Antonio Palocci, denied ever being in a house used by lobbyists in an upper-class neighborhood in Brasília
The house was rumored to be a place where kickback money was divided up and visitors could consort with prostitutes. Then, at the beginning of March, in an interview in O Estado de S. Paulo, a major Brazilian newspaper, a caretaker at the house stated that Palocci had been there "ten or twenty times."
Somehow, someone in the government immediately discovered that the caretaker had recently received a large amount of money. Believing that an opposition party had paid the caretaker to smear Palocci, someone in the government obtained a copy of the caretaker’s bank account balance sheet where there was in fact a record of large deposits recently.
For a moment, Palocci’s defender’s were jubilant and even had a copy of the caretaker’s balance sheet published in a major weekly newsmagazine. And then the whole thing backfired. It turned out the money was a gift from the caretaker’s father. What was done to a simple caretaker by someone in the government has so far caused two resignations and two indictments. The investigation continues.
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