The Reconstitution of a Crime: How Brazilian High Officials Broke the Law

    Last March 16, the minister of Finance, Antônio Palocci, received a visit from the president of the Federal Savings Bank, Jorge Mattoso, who supposedly gave him an envelope containing a bank statement from the account of the caretaker, Francenildo Santos Costa.

    This is the version Mattoso gave Monday, March 27, in his testimony to the Federal Police, according to Rodrigo Carneiro Gomes, the commissioner in charge of the investigation.

    Mattoso allegedly met with Ricardo Schumann, an adviser to the presidency of the bank, at a dinner and received from him an envelope containing the statement. With the document in hand, Mattoso called Palocci and went to the minister’s house, where he passed five minutes and then left.

    The ex-president of the Federal Savings Bank, according to the Federal Police, assumed responsibility for the violation of banking privacy. In a note, however, he affirmed that he was not the one who made the statement public. He was arraigned for having violated the proprieties of his office and stands the risk of being sentenced to two to six years in jail.

    According to Mattoso, bank experts in the course of their work were alerted to the fact that the caretaker had received deposits on the order of nearly 40,000 reais (US$ 18,400) in his account, much more than is compatible with his salary.

    This information was presumably passed along to the president of the bank, who requested a copy of the caretaker’s bank statement, as the law demands in such cases, he contended.

    On the day after he supposedly gave the minister a copy of the statement, that is, on Friday, March  17, Mattoso called a morning meeting of bank experts and requested information regarding the caretaker’s banking transactions to be forwarded to the Financial Activities Control Council (COAF), linked to the Ministry of Finance, for investigation. Mattoso claimed that another reason for giving Palocci a copy of the statement was that the minister was his administrative superior.

    The three Federal Savings Bank officers who gave testimony to the Federal Police made up what the police refers to as "the chain of command." Jeter Ribeiro was the operator who entered into the system and gave the order for the statement to be printed.

    According to his version, he was obeying the orders of the superintendent, Sueli Aparecida Mascarenhas, who received the statement. She says she received orders from Schumann, the adviser to the presidency, and she passed the statement along to him.

    Mascarenhas and Ribeiro gave their testimony on Sunday, March 26. Monday morning, March 27, Schumann corroborated their testimony and said that he had received orders from Mattoso, who testified in the afternoon. The Federal Police affirms that there are still some contradictions in the versions but refused to go into detail.

    Mattoso and the minister of Finance, Antônio Palocci, submitted their letters of resignation. The president of the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), Guido Mantega, was appointed to take over the ministry. Maria Fernando Ramos Coelho, a career public servant who has worked for the Federal Savings Bank for 22 years, will replace Mattoso as president of the institution.

    Agência Brasil

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