Brazil’s Prosecutors Buried Corruption Case Against ex-President Cardoso

June 20, 2019

New revelations from The Intercept's examination of a leaked data archive of Brazil's corruption prosecutions shows how former President Cardoso was spared because prosecutors needed his support. Mike Fox explains

New revelations from The Intercept's examination of a leaked data archive of Brazil's corruption prosecutions shows how former President Cardoso was spared because prosecutors needed his support. Mike Fox explains


Brazil's Prosecutors Buried Corruption Case Against ex-President Cardoso

Story Transcript

GREG WILPERT It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore. The investigative website, The Intercept, is continuing to rock Brazil’s political landscape with its revelations about judicial bias in the so-called Car Wash corruption investigations that took place over the past few years. On Wednesday, The Intercept released its seventh report in Portuguese, in which it revealed text message conversations between Judge Sergio Moro, Chief Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, and among various other investigators of the corruption cases. Not only do these conversations show a high level of coordination between prosecutors and Judge Moro, but also that political favoritism was a factor in deciding which cases to pursue. The Intercept’s revelations are based on a massive archive of internal communications conducted by prosecutors and judges that The Intercept received from an anonymous source. So far, The Intercept has analyzed only a tiny fraction of this archive.

Joining me now from Florianopolis, Brazil to discuss the latest revelations and their effect on Brazil’s politics, is Mike Fox. Mike is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to The Real News Network and to many other media outlets. Thanks again, Mike, for joining us today.

MIKE FOX Thanks, Greg.

GREG WILPERT So this is the seventh Intercept report, which has not yet been published in English, and it refers specifically to the investigation of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also known by his initials, FHC, who was President of Brazil from 1995 to 2002. What was he being investigated for, and how does what has been revealed about this case show political bias in the Lava Jato, or Car Wash investigation?

MIKE FOX So, Greg, this is pretty massive. At one point, the prosecution team, the Lava Jato prosecution team, they were sent these documents in which it showed that A—Fernando Henrique Cardoso had asked Marcel Odebrecht—Odebrecht, if you remember, was one of the main construction companies within the whole Lava Jato scandal, the whole Petrobras scandal, and they had just paid kickbacks and bribes to dozens, hundreds of people not just in Brazil, but around the region. And in this, Fernando Henrique Cardoso is asking for Marcelo Odebrecht for essentially some money that he needs urgently for electoral campaigns. And then, in another document that was received and that was sent to the telegram messages of this, kind of, secret group within the task force, it shows that he literally, his institute, the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute received monthly sums from Odebrecht during a year period from 2011 to 2012, totaling roughly $500,000-$600,000, so this was very clear. At the time this hit the chat group, people blew up, “oh my God. This is crazy. This is insane.”

Now, at the same time, Deltan Dallagnol was chatting with Moro. And in this case, Moro actually says, “listen, you might want to be careful with that because we don’t want to hurt someone who is supportive of the investigations.” So, this is a very clear situation where they’ve got a ton of dirt on this former president. And it’s so clear, people jovial in these chat messages and literally Moro was saying, wait, wait, wait. Slow down. Now, in hindsight, we’re looking at this now. First off, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was a member of the PSDB Party, the Social Democratic Party, the staunch enemies of the Worker’s Party. It was long-assumed by people, particularly the left in Brazil, that these were close allies of Moro, particularly because the people who were being investigated in many cases were not the PSDB, so the Car Wash investigations would go after particularly people in the Worker’s Party. The idea was to completely taint their image, but also smaller parties that began to be fined, but PSDB was largely left off the table.

In this case, even within the task force chat group, they were talking about how this is a really good thing because it can show their impartiality within this case. But the fact that Moro actually came out saying, “hold on. Wait. We don’t want to hurt the reputation of someone, or we don’t want to hurt someone that’s supportive of the Lava Jato investigations,” is scandalous and it shows a massive political bias because he was never brought up on these charges. Fernando Henrique Cardoso wasn’t. In fact, in later chat groups while they’re talking, they mentioned him as being someone that’s off the table, that the investigations aren’t happening. So it’s very clear the influence that Sergio Moro had in this case and even though they had dirt on him, and very clear proof of him requesting bribes and receiving them, no steps were taken within the Car Wash investigation.

GREG WILPERT So, one of the issues that has, of course, come up repeatedly is the high degree of coordination between Judge Sergio Moro, who’s now a Minister of Justice under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and the Chief Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol. Now, they clearly coordinated media and prosecutorial strategies, as you mentioned. Tell us about what Sergio Moro himself though, had to say about this in the testimony that he gave to the Brazilian Senate on Wednesday. And how is Brazil’s political class reacting to Moro’s defense and to The Intercept’s revelations?

MIKE FOX Well, first off, during his Senate testimony, he was basically, “there was nothing illegal done. It was completely normal.” The idea was to deflect and really, what the Senate testimony was, it was a situation of trying to gain the narrative over this case, and journalists have pointed that out. Leonardo [inaudible] is one person who’s highlighted how the whole idea in this case, and this was the Senate testimony and there are going to be other events, is the idea of rolling out the pro-Bolsonaro, rolling out the pro-Moro testimony. This was not a situation where the Senate was going to grill him and really dig up some real answers. It was his chance to set the record straight, and I think that’s what we’re going to continue to see. So what he did was he called the investigation itself, the leaks and the revelations, he called the fact that they were even rolling out with this stuff, a criminal organization involved with the release of these leaks.

He questioned where they got the messages from, saying that bringing up again the fact that they could’ve been gotten from a hacker or paid for by The Intercept, which I’ll get into in a second, and basically calling that since they were illegally gotten, they should not have been used. But he also was very clear to point out that this is nothing illegal that he’s done, completely normal, but that it was an attack on Brazil, an attack on the Bolsonaro government, and an attack on the Car Wash investigations. And this is, again, it’s setting up the narrative about how they want to be able to speak to this, and how they want to, kind of, attack Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept going forward.

During the testimony, Flavio Bolsonaro, the son of Bolsonaro, he’s a Senator, and he actually read from and brought up a conspiracy theory, which has been floated over the last few days here in Brazil, in which The Intercept paid a Russian hacker roughly $300,000 to hack the phones. And documents, false documents, kind of, went viral over social media in which they were supposed to have shown money transferred from Brazil to this Russian hacker through crypto currencies. Now, of course, that document was completely debunked, showing that A—using crypto currencies, they’re not going to have one document that shows the different crypto currencies it went through, and there were several spelling mistakes. And so, it was very clear that this was a hack job in order to try and take down The Intercept and create an alternative narrative to what’s happening right now. It’s the same thing that the oil industry does to climate change. It’s the same thing that the tobacco industry has done against the huge evidence of Cancer from lung smoking. It’s the same thing that the lead industry did for a long, long time about the negative impact of lead.

So now what we’re seeing is here, kind of, it’s a defensive move to try and bring into question the veracity and also even where these leaks came from. That’s another thing they’ve been bringing up. In fact, Sergio Moro mentioned it. He said, “listen. I don’t have those messages on my phone anymore. They’ve been deleted. I can’t testify to whether or not those messages are true,” but he questioned whether or not they had been altered. That was something that, even on the very first day, the Lava Jato task force came out when these things were leaked. On June 10th they came out, and they verified that the messages that were published by The Intercept, that they were true. The telegram service, the telegram messaging application through which these messages were sent, they came out and said that they had no evidence of actually a hack into their system, and they had no evidence that these messages were altered in some way or another. But still, the image is trying to deflect and that’s what we saw from Sergio Moro yesterday in the Senate.

GREG WILPERT Now, another aspect in all of this has been the US role. That is, actually the whole Lava Jato investigation probably started with the US Treasury Department when it sent over evidence about the corruption cases to Brazil for it to investigate. Now, what do we know about what has been learned with regard to these revelations from The Intercept with regard to the US role?

MIKE FOX We’ve seen one thing so far, which came out last week. It was in one of the messages. Sergio Moro asked Deltan Dallagnol, the lead prosecutor, why a specific operation hadn’t happened recently, why they hadn’t been out in the streets. Dallagnol responded that there were a lot of things in the works, that they were trying to figure out a bunch of things. Among those, they were working on the articulacao, they were working on the collaboration, the communication with the Americans. Now, this is huge. We don’t know exactly what it meant. And, of course, articulacao in Portuguese can mean several different things— communication, collaboration, links with the Americans— but we know that they were in contact, and we’ve known this for a long time. We’ve known that DOJ representatives had been collaborating with Brazilians in the task force investigations, but this is the very first time that it’s completely clear in this communication between Moro and one of the lead prosecutors that hey, the United States and representative of the US government were in on this, and we’re actually collaborating with them in these investigations. So this opens up a massive can of worms.

We still don’t know exactly to the extent that this will mean, and what kind of impact it will have, but there’s no doubt that this is going to be rolling out little-by-little as they start to dive through these next messages. And there’s one other thing I think is important to point out, Greg, that The Intercept and Glenn Greenwald have been massively attacked over the last week for the release of these leaks. Glenn came out over just the last day saying that they were now going to start to share this information with other agencies, with other outlets, in order to share the burden, but also to get the messages out quicker. That’s, kind of, the next step that we’re going to see happening in the release of these revelations. Again, as of earlier last week, Glenn Greenwald said that they’d only gone through roughly one percent of the entire messages, and they had stories to last one to two years. There’s a massive trove there and we’re going to see what they reveal in the coming weeks and months and years.

GREG WILPERT Wow. That’s certainly going to keep us busy as well, but we’re going to leave it there for now. I was speaking to Mike Fox, freelance reporter based in Florianopolis, Brazil. Thanks again, Mike, for having joined us today.

MIKE FOX Thanks, Greg.

GREG WILPERT And thank you for joining The Real News Network.