Lula’s right-hand man gets almost 11 years in prison in Mensalão case

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 13, 2012

The Federal Supreme Court of Brazil (STF) condemned former Lula’s right-hand man to almost 11 years in prison for his participation in the corruption scheme known as the Mensalão. Jose Dirceu, who many label as the strong man in Lula’s administration was convicted of bribery and criminal association to command a network of bribes to legislators. The Mensalão scheme operated from 2003 to 2005. Twenty other people were also found guilty along with Dirceu, who has challenged the outcome of the trial, labeling it of ‘political persecution’.

The other five Supreme Court judges who convicted Dirceu unanimously supported the proposal of the chief judge, Joaquim Barbosa, to impose a sentence of two years and eleven months for criminal association.

The approval of the sentence to seven years and eleven months in prison for the crime of bribery recommended by Barbosa, in turn, was decided by four votes in favor and one against. The opposing vote came from judge Carmen Lucia, who recommended a sentence of three years, nine months and 15 days in jail. Since the sentence adds to more than eight years in total, Jose Dirceu will have to remain in jail for at least two years. In addition, he will have to pay a fine of nearly $ 330,000.

The judge argued  that Dirceu played a “prominent role” in shaping the pattern of paying bribes to legislators in exchange for their support for the proposals submitted to Congress by the government of the Workers Party (PT ). According to Joaquim Barbosa, the position of power that Dirceu had in government “was politically essential to hide the actions of the gang.”

The so-called ‘trial of the century’ also condemned former PT president, Jose Genoíno to six years and eleven months’ imprisonment and eight years and eleven months were given to former party treasurer, Delubio Soares. Jose Dirceu’s attorney, José Luis Oliveira Lima, said the former minister will use “all resources” to overturn his conviction, and even seeks to raise an action to the International Court of Human Rights. In the last few days, the office of the Attorney General called for the confiscation of the passports from the convicted men in an attempt to prevent them from fleeing the country.

“The Supreme (Federal Court) did not analyze the evidence with due correction. The documents generated during the process proved the innocence of my client,” argued Dirceu’s attorney. Also, the lawyer for former PT president José Genoino, said his client “vigorously disagrees” with the judgment of the STF, but that he will respect it and face it “with the chest open and the head up.”

According to the Court, the penalties applied to the men convicted in the Mensalão case were defined throughout the trial that sentenced 25 people in total; including politicians, businessmen and bankers who had ties to the corruption scandal that threatened to bring down Lula’s government back in 2005. Other convicts of lesser political relevance, such as publicist Marcos Valerio de Souza, appointed as the operator of the illegal scheme, received larger convictions.

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Jose Dirceu Convicted in Mensalão Corruption case

But the Brazilian Court abstained itself from even hearing evidence that may have incriminated former Brazilian president Luis Inacio da Silva.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 10, 2012

The Brazilian Supreme Court convicted Jose Dirceu, a minister of former President Lula da Silva, for bribery in the process called Mensalão.

Along with Dirceu were also sentenced the then president of the Workers Party (PT), Jose Genuino, and treasurer, Delubio Soares. The three men who were the strong core of PT back in 2003, have been convicted of using taxpaer money to bribe four other political parties. The same political parties are now allies of the government, and several of their congressmen were — according to the discoveries made in the trial — bought off to support the first Lula government. The three convicted men will also be tried later for a crime known in Brazil as  “crew training”, the equivalent to forming and operating a criminal organization.

The Supreme Court had already convicted politicians from four different parties for passive corruption. On Tuesday, the Court dealt with the now proven corrupters.

The most difficult sentence to agree on, according to the press was that of Jose Dirceu, as the evidence against him was not as obvious as those of the others involved. One of the judges who acquitted Dirceu, Ricardo Lewandowski, warned that the acquittal did not mean that Dirceu was not the head of the plot, but he had not found in acts concrete evidence of his guilt.

Most judges, however, based their decision to convict Dirceu based on the theory of evidence along with the evidence presented by witnesses. They also turned to what happens in criminal organizations and the mafia. In these cases, they say, the bosses “leave no trace” and you have to get to the guilty verdict based on what they called “the crime as a whole.”

The conviction of the political nucleus that participated in the plot, whose responsibility, according to the indictment, fell over Jose Dirceu himself, the judges threw out the claim made by his legal defense that no such plot existed or that it was organized by the Workers Party in order to perpetuate its power in government. In fact, Dirceu’s defense team alleged that the Mensalão case was just isolated criminal behavior.

The local press in Brazil cites as a surprising fact that Jose Dirceu and his accomplices in the Mensalão plot were convicted by a Supreme Court in which 8 of the 11 judges, were appointed by Lula and President Dilma Rousseff. This fact debunks the argument that the trial against Dirceu and his cabal of criminals was just an attempt to ‘hurt’ the image of former president Lula da Silva. The result of the trial is not a move carried out by people from the opposite side of the aisle, but by PT loyalists who have identified themselves as Lula’s magistrate friends.

President Dilma had ordered on Tuesday morning his ministers not to manifest before the expected and Dirceu sentence.

The main stream press in Brazil anxiously expected an official statement from Lula, who in the past said that the Mensalão trial was a move stain his presidency. Lula has now said that the conviction of Dirceu is a sign of ‘hypocrisy’. The former president called Dirceu, José Genoino and Delubio Soares on Tuesday. As it is reported in Brazil, the calls were a gesture of solidarity to comfort the trio convicted by the Supreme, who always had Lula’s back during his 8 years as president of Brazil.

Previous to the conviction of Dirceu and the other PT members, Lula said he considered the live broadcast of the trial as a “political hit” by people who could not stand that a man like himself, reached the presidency of the country.

The loss endured by the Workers Party (PT) is not limited to the conviction of some of its most influential leaders. The significant defeat that the PT suffered last Sunday during the national election for Mayor and Councilmen all over the country is a clear sign of how the party has lost the favor of millions of Brazilians who were Lula’s unconditional supporters for 8 years and who also supported Dilma Rousseff, a woman that came to power mainly due to Lula’s sponsorship.

Leaving out the fact that the judges were not brave enough to at least hear accusations against former president Lula himself, it seems that the conviction of Dirceu is counted as a goal for accountability in Brazil and as a rare victory for The People in the match between them and the Mafia that governs over this country.

In a country like Brazil, it is not outrageous to ask whether the judges who convicted Jose Dirceu now have a target drawn on their backs.

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Brazilian Court convicts 12 politicians in Mensalão Scandal

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 2, 2012

The time has come for Jose Dirceu to face justice in the Mensalão corruption scandal.

The Brazilian Supreme Court convicted Monday afternoon 12 individuals from four different political parties which were government allies during the Lula administration. These convictions are part of the process known as Mensalão, a corruption case where 38 people were brought to trial charged with seven crimes including active and passive corruption, money laundering and gang formation.

So far the Supreme Court issued 22 convictions and four acquittals. The acquittals were issued due to what the court said was lack of evidence. Monday’s convictions relate to 12 politicians from the political parties known as PP, PR, PTB and PMDB, which up until today are close to the Brazilian government and members of the Executive power.

According to the judges from the Supreme Court these politicians, which include MPs and party chairmen, such as Roberto Jefferson, president of the PTB and informer in the corruption case since 2005, had created a corruption scheme that brought former President Lula da Silva to the brink of losing his mandate. Despite multiple accusations against Lula himself, the Court has refused to hear testimony from those who accuse him of knowing about the corruption scheme that paid political groups in exchange for political support.

These 12 politicians have been convicted of having bribed with money taken from public coffers, to amass support for the Lula government and sell their votes in favor of the bills introduced by the Government, including the reform of the Social Security System.

The dean of the Supreme, Celso de Mello, who sentenced the 12 politicians for the three crimes charged by the Attorney General, made a harsh reflection on the serious consequences of corruption by politicians who should be the guarantors of democratic ethics. Mello defined them as “empowered criminals.” He said that “no one lives with dignity in a state taken by corruption”.

Mello had question the very same projects approved by people being accused of bribery today. He remembered that, for example, the judgments issued by a corrupt judge is invalid. The Chief Justice Ayres Britto, quoted Ulysses Guimarães, while explaining that “political corruption is the cancer of democracy.”

In the next few days, the focus will be on the block of inmates that belong to the Workers Party (PT), who, when the scandal broke out, were the ones responsible for the corruption scheme. They include José Dirceu, Lula’s right hand man and two-time presidents of PT, the former party member José Genuino and the treasurer Delubio Suares.

The three are accused of bribery, and of being the corrupters of political allies and of forming an organized gang as they sought to perpetuate their grasp of power in Brazilian politics and the government.

The possible sentence for Dirceu is the trickiest because, according to political scientists such sentence would also taint former president Lula, who maintains that he did not know anything about the corruption scheme known as the Mensalão.

An acquittal of Dirceu, who still claims he is innocent of the charges, would indirectly absolve Lula who insists that the ongoing process in the Supreme is a way to put in doubt the projects that his government conducted during the eight years he was in power, which he says, helped 30 million Brazilians to get out of poverty.

The PT, one of the most corrupt organizations in the country, has called on its militants and social formations to take to the streets to “defend the attempted coup against Lula”.

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Was Brazilian ‘Lula’ Behind the ‘Mensalão’ Corruption Scheme?

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 18, 2012

Brazilian businessman Marcos Valerio de Souza, one of the people being accused of corruption during the trial for the ‘Mensalão’ scheme, has accused the former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of orchestrating a vote-buying plot as part of the scandal that has rocked Brazilian politics in 2011 and 2012. During the depositions and hearings, several members of Lula’s cabinet were cited as involved in the Mensalão scheme together with bankers and businessmen.

“Lula was the head. He ran it all”, said Souza, who has been identified as a “luxury messenger” of the plot laid out by the president, as reported by the Brazilian magazine ‘Veja’. “Everything I did was well known by Lula,” noted the owner of two major advertising companies in Brazil. Souza has argued, according to ‘Veja’, that the Workers Party headed government assured him his sentence would be soft if he kept quite about the Mensalão scandal, in which the defendants received monthly payments in exchange for votes.

Meanwhile, Souza’s lawyer has denied such statements saying that his client has not spoken to the press since 2005. The Brazilian Supreme Court is accusing eight people, including Souza, of money laundering and embezzlement with monies that belonged to the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), which is the political party that launched Lula to the presidency. The Mensalão scandal involving members of the PT was originally made public back in 2005.

Despite the accusations directed at the former president, the Supreme Court refused to investigate Lula’s involvement, much less to charge  him with any wrong doing. Luiz Inacio da Silva ruled over Brazil between 2003 and 2010. The Court did accuse Lula’s right hand man and  chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, who is now one of the eight people accused in the case.

The process has been dubbed as the “trial of the century” in Brazil, a country plagued with corruption from top to bottom and left to right, where politicians and military often get away with their crimes. The Mensalão scandal spreads its tentacles through the politics and business worlds. There are 38 former Lula ministers, legislators, bankers and businessmen involved in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the South American nation.

Thus far, from the 38 defendants — all free — face charges of money laundering, tax evasion, corruption, embezzlement and formation of a criminal organization, among others. The sentences could be of over 30 years in prison. According to ‘Veja’ magazine, the PT had bought political favors to gain support in Congress. The scandal diverted some 101 million reais (40.5 million euros).

The PT had allegedly pledged to pay a large sum of money to legislators of the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) to give their unconditional support to the government. This illegal agreement was announced following the breakdown of the alliance in 2005. Lula, who is not among the accused, has always denied having knowledge that members of his party and people close to the government had been paid to commit such offenses. In spite of the scandal, the leftist leader was reelected in 2006. Its popularity was always at high levels despite the conflict.

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Brazil Protecting Colombian FARC Terrorist Since 2005

by Alex Newman
The New American
August 23, 2011

American and Colombian officials suspected that a decision by the Brazilian government granting political asylum to a prominent Marxist terrorist was made under pressure from former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose Workers’ Party (PT) has frequently been accused of receiving millions of dollars from the drug-trafficking terror group known as the FARC. The suspicions surrounding the case were highlighted in an explosive U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006 that was recently released by the whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks. But despite the enormity of the revelations in the document, entitled “Brazil Grants Asylum to FARC Terrorist,” there has been virtually no press coverage of the scandal so far.

Even Establishment media outlets such as Veja Magazine has reported on the FARC - PT contacts.

The saga described in the cable began when Francisco Antonio Cadena, the so-called “Ambassador to Brazil” for the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was arrested by Brazilian authorities in 2005. He was apparently living there with his family at the time.

Known as “Oliverio Medina” in Brazil, the high-ranking terrorist was taken into custody based on a request from Interpol pursuant to a Colombian warrant. He was wanted for a broad range of crimes including murder for terrorist purposes, extortion, kidnapping, and terrorism.

When Cadena was finally arrested, the FARC’s “International Commission” immediately sprang into action. It issued a statement the next day calling for the release of “Oliverio Medina, who is a member of our International Commission.”

According to the U.S. cable, citing a Colombian embassy official, Cadena also had many high-level friends within the Brazilian government. “[D]uring the many years Cadena spent in Brazil prior to his arrest last year, he had cultivated close ties with President Lula’s Labor Party (PT) and had met with leaders of the PT in a house just outside of Brasilia (called the Red Heart Mansion) owned by a PT member of Congress,” noted the cable, signed by the highest-ranking American official in Brasilia at the time, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Philip Chicola.

The Colombian embassy official cited in the report also “echoed press and other public accounts that PT leaders had met with Cadena in prison,” according to the U.S. embassy document. “While pointing out that claims of FARC donations to PT campaigns had never been proven, he insisted there was ample proof of Cadena’s ties with PT leaders.”

The decision to grant political asylum to the internationally known terrorist was made in total secrecy by the Brazilian National Committee on Refugees in mid-2006. And by approving the request, according to the cable, the government of Brazil was actually violating its own rules — individuals involved in terrorism and drug trafficking are supposed to be extradited, not granted asylum.

“The decision by the Brazilian committee is audacious but not necessarily surprising, as is the near silence surrounding it,” the cable noted. “The granting of asylum to a known terrorist flies in the face of Brazilian claims to oppose international terrorism. Particularly troubling are the allegations of the Presidency subverting the judicial process and pressuring the refugee committee to take a decision contrary to its own guidelines, allegations we find credible.”

According to “unofficial” information provided to the Colombian embassy in Brazil, the decision to grant asylum was made after Cadena promised to sever ties with the FARC. But American and Colombian officials weren’t buying it.

“We, like the Colombians, will be trying to find out what the official rationale for the asylum decision was and how that can be reconciled with the [Government of Brazil]’s supposed opposition to international terrorism,” the cable noted, requesting instructions from Washington about how to proceed. “Embassy believes that high level political pressure resulted in this decision.”

The Brazilian government essentially refused to provide any information about what was going on, according to the cable. The refugee committee told the U.S. embassy that all documents and records related to the asylum decision were confidential. The Colombian government, meanwhile, was quietly informed about the denial of its extradition request — with no explanation — via the Brazilian embassy.

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