Mensalão Defense Lawyers in Brazil Worried Justices Have Already Made Up Their Minds

    Inri Cristo

    Inri CristoMensalão lawyers are divided on the question of whether or not justices on the Supreme Court (STF) will be swayed by their arguments. On Wednesday, August 8, the subject was debated by a number of the defense lawyers in light of media reports that the eleven justices have already prepared their votes.

    The lawyer for deputy João Paulo Cunha, Alberto Zacharias Toron, says he believes oral arguments by defense lawyer will have an effect on the decision.

    “My impression is that although the justices may have already organized their votes, that does not mean they have completed them. I think they are affected by what lawyers contribute. Each one of them will be careful to write opinions in light of the evidence in the case files so as to ensure that their vote is in accordance with the facts of the case,” said Toron.

    However, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, a former minister of Justice, who is defending the former director at the Banco Rural, José Roberto Salgado, says the STF justices must take into consideration more than defense arguments.

    “In order to condemn, proof of guilt must be contained in the evidence and facts as they appear in the case files after the judicial investigation is completed.”

    According to Bastos,  “Everything must be duly evaluated to ensure that a decision is based on solid proof presented at the end of the judicial investigation rather than proof at the beginning of the investigation. Everything depends on an analysis by each minister. This is covered by Article 155 of the Penal Code.”

    Asked if the decision will affect Cunha’s campaign, Toron emphatically said yes. “If he is not guilty the effect will be highly positive. If he is condemned, and I hope this does not happen, the reality will be different.”

    João Paulo Cunha is the only mensalão defendant running for office in this year’s midterm October elections. He is a candidate for mayor of Osasco, a city in the metropolitan region of São Paulo.

    When the case became public in 2005, Cunha was the president of the Chamber of Deputies. He faced a vote on expulsion in the Chamber of Deputies but escaped. He was reelected federal deputy in 2006 and 2010.

    Criminal Activity

    “I condemn the defendant, João Paulo Cunha, for passive corruption and money laundering; for receiving an improper advantage consisting of R$ 50,000, as well as malfeasance in that he misused public funds he had access to because of the office he occupied,” declared Supreme Court associate justice, Joaquim Barbosa, in the first part of his sentence last Thursday, August 16.

    When the mensalão scandal became public in 2005, João Paulo Cunha was a federal deputy and the office he occupied was president of the Chamber of Deputies. Cunha survived a vote to expel him from Congress.

    And then he was reelected in 2006 and again in 2010, with the result that he is one of the few mensalão defendants still in public office. In 2005, eleven of the defendants were federal deputies; today, besides Cunha, only two others are. 

    According to justice Barbosa, the contracts that Cunha signed when he was president of the Chamber of Deputies with the SMPB advertising agency, owned by Marcos Valério, were illegal.

    “The contracts between the Chamber of Deputies and the ad agency just shoveled money to Valério and his partners, Cristiano Paz and Ramon Hollerbach, while the agency did practically nothing for the Chamber of Deputies,” said Barbosa.

    The justice also accused Cunha of malfeasance in another contract with a firm called IFT that was supposed to work for the Chamber of Deputies. Instead, Barbosa claimed, the owner of IFT handled press and public relations on a personal level for Cunha.

    ABr

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