Messages between Brazil’s federal prosecutor, Deltan Dallagnol, who led Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) and then-judge, Sergio Moro, have revealed that the evidence used to jail Brazil’s Workers’ Party (PT) former president Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva, was tenuous at best and that the charges against him may have been groundless.
Operation Car Wash is an ongoing criminal investigation by Brazil's Federal Police. Initially a money laundering investigation, it expanded to cover allegations of corruption at the country’s largest oil company, Petrobras, where executives allegedly accepted bribes in return for awarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices.
Lula is in jail for supposedly accepting bribes in exchange for contracts between Petrobras and construction firm, OAS.
The most iconic bribe allegedly offered to the ex-president by OAS — according to this paper-thin case — was an apartment. However, no proof whatsoever has ever been brought forward of Lula accepting the apartment.
In fact, an embarrassing exchange between Lula and Moro suggests extreme bias in weighing up the facts. Here is an extract from Moro’s questioning to Lula:
Moro: Here is a term of interest in a three-bedroom apartment in this building in Guarujá, unit 174A, which after a transfer to OAS, became apartment 164A. Can I show you this document?
Lula: Who signed it?
Moro: Hmm… There is no signature …
Lula: Well, your Honour can put that away, please!
The prosecution had exposed its lack of evidence a day earlier. Making the official case against Lula in a crude PowerPoint presentation to the press, Dallagnol’s said: “We have no proof, but we have conviction.”
The media ate it up, generating an anti-PT sentiment that gave Jair Bolsonaro the presidency.
With no proof to incriminate the former president, public opinion was the key. The accusation was made and the judge passed down his sentence. The federal police presented no solid proof, only testimonies over which doubt has been cast.
Many witnesses have recently revealed having been coerced into accusing Lula.
Dozens of messages have come to light proving the collusion between Moro, the public prosecutors and the federal police — all of which are supposed to operate as isolated, independent agencies.
Glen Greenwald, The Intercept’s chief journalist investigating Operation Car Wash, has unearthed a pre-determined verdict, a three-pronged collusion operation and concerted efforts to embellish flimsy and, at times, non-existent evidence.
Moro and Dallagnol continued to feed biased information to the press, which incited even more hate and disgust against the former president, even though there was no proof.
The media, hungry for a headline, gobbled them up like Easter Eggs without verifying their veracity, nor questioning their origins. Moro even wrote in one of his leaked messages: “The press is not attentive to detail.”
Just prior to Moro being announced as the new Chief Federal Justice, many prosecutors questioned whether this was the right move. Many believed this would cast a doubt over the already shaky case against Lula, whose defence team was already lodging an appeal.
Their fear was quickly converted into arrogance and courage when Moro was crowned.
Since then, Moro’s minions in the public prosecutor’s office have been helping Bolsonaro’s sons dodge bullets for illicit funds appearing in their accounts. They have been manipulating the mainstream media and congress to get Bolsonaro’s social security attacks passed. They have also been feeding social and political movements adulterated videos, petitions in support of congress decisions and false information disguised as official documents.
The most extreme right-wing of the political movements, Mude! (Change!) and Vem Pra Rua (Come onto the streets), deny that Dallagnol has ever provided them with inside information, but affirm his participation as a “regular citizen” in their anti-corruption campaigns.
As Bolsonaro explained to United States President Donald Trump on his visit to the White House in March, his aim is to “destroy many things in Brazil”. To do so, he needs a judiciary that won’t bother him with pesky questions about legalities and lawfulness.
With the Chief Federal Justice and the Public Prosecutor’s Office in his pocket, Bolsonaro won’t have many obstacles.
Brazil’s Public Prosecutors’ Office has very little accountability and total control over all its activities. It may be the marionette this new government needs to set the stage and effectively annihilate any remnants of the social democratic policies the PT managed to implement between 2002–14.
It would seem that the curtain is being drawn on the rule of law in Brazil.