Rio: “Senior CHiPs Were Framed By the Antimafia!”

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“The Injustice of Justice”: Highway patrol officials Roque and Simões hanging out in front of Larry Rohter’s house.

Inspetores da PRF protestam contra injustiça em Copacabana: Brazilian federal highway patrolman found guilty of participating in a “gasoline mafia” protest in front of the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro on Brazilian Independence Day. Globo’s G1 news portal reports.

Their story has become something of a minor media cause célèbre: Sidney Rezende bluntly affirmed that they were the victims of injustice in late July, for example. And plugged the book (R$18 at finer book shops).

Rezende is a PUC-Rio journalism professor, blogging industrialist, Wikipedia autohagiographer — the article has a viés de vaidade, as one editor of the man’s autohagiography noted laconically, and the principle defender of the article is also named Rezende — and author most recently of It Must Be Nice to Be You: 122 Successful Brazilians on What It Feels Like To Be Successful.

Operation “Dust on the Asphalt” was commanded by Cláudio Nogueira, who I believe is the same federal police inspector who ran — and is running — the sharp end of Operation Hurricane.

Hurricane is an ongoing federal crackdown on the corruption of police and judges by the Rio de Janeiro numbers rackets. You saw Nogueira telling TV Globo that the people it has an exclusive contract with to broadcast the Rio Carnaval competition used pistol-packing hitmen to fix this year’s results, in

The highway patrol inspectors say they were framed. Or one of them does, at least. Globo does not substantially interview the other one for this story. The two senior CHiPs are awaiting the outcome of their appeal in freedom, and Simões has released a book in the meantime.

The case involved an allegedly very complex and lucrative criminal conspiracy to smuggle and sell adulterated fuel for motor vehicles. Among other things, it (allegedly) involved paying princely bribes to officials responsible for certifying gasoline station compliance with environmental standards.

A brief on that below.

Now, it would be a pretty serious matter if the top antimafia cop in Rio were stumbling, bumbling and railroading people just to make himself look good.

Veja magazine, for one, has invested heavily in a FUD campaign to undercut the image of the federal police as a competent agency that is credibly cleaning up its act with respect to police corruption. It reported last year, for example, that its J. Edgar Hoover, Mr. Lacerda, had illegal bank accounts abroad. That appears to have been a gabbling non-fact sourced to someone the federal police indicted for astonishingly bad acts. Lacerda has just been named to head ABIN, the Brazilian CIA. Ecce Veja.

But yes, on the other hand, such things do happen. And not just in South America, either. As the Duke lacrosse team will tell you, back here in the States.

The frontal assault by Brazilian feds on the jogo do bicho gambling rackets, for example, is an extremely significant matter. An historic case, really, if it pans out. Epoch-making. The hysterically hyped Brazilian political scandals that the New York Times hammers and yammers on about pale in comparison in terms of the potential ramifications for ordinary Brazilians. Superlatives of this kind should be used sparingly, but when it comes to taking down the jogo do bicho, I think an exception can be made.

Which is why if you sent me out to cover this story, I would probably want to get prosecutors on the record to defend their case. If they were inclined to try it in the media, that is. Or even better, I might review the case against the defendants as laid out in the court documents, get some some legal beagles to comment on defense strategy and the quality of the evidence. On what basis did the court decide that these senior highway patrolmen were running armed convoys of watered-down black-market Paraguayan pseudo-petrol up the Via Dutra?

I mean, Globo, of all news organizations in all the world, ought to be sensitive to the threat to its credibility on this subject. After all, a TV Globo reporter, José Messias Xavier, was arrested late last year when his name was discovered on a gambling-mafia payroll spreadsheet. Along with a ton of Rio cops. High-ranking ones, in some cases.

Messias allegedly sold confidential information he gathered from law enforcement officials, under the usual reporter-source confidentiality agreement, to the target of police investigations. Including the former state police chief, Lins. As far as I can tell, every single reference to the fact that Messias ever worked for Globo has been expunged from

Correct: A TV Globo reporter showed up on the payroll of a death squad-running mafia with Paraguayan piratical and parapolitical overtones. And you thought the Jayson Blair case was a reputational nightmare? Ecce Globo.

And compare

Já o inspetor Simões, que há um mês publicou o livro “A injustiça da Justiça”, na qual conta sua história, disse que numa gravação telefônica ele foi identificado como o “policial Simões”. Ele afirma que se trata de um outro policial que tem o mesmo sobrenome.

Inspector Simões, who a month ago published The Injustice of Justice, in which he tells his story, said that he was indentified in an intercepted phone conversation as “the policeman Simôes.” He says this is a reference to another policeman with the same surname.

Publishing a book about the criminal case against you while the case is still working its way through the courts — and putting the blogola industry to work pumping it and dumping it — seems to be a preferred strategy of Brazilian Johnny Cochranes. See also

“A voz gravada em conversas telefônicas não é minha. Pedi perícia, mas o juiz não autorizou. Paguei um exame de comparação de voz. O laudo particular mostra que a voz não é minha, mas isso nunca foi levado em consideração. Sinto-me injustiçado. Minha vida e da minha família acabou. Mas acho que todos que se sentem injustiçados têm o dever morar de protestar, de buscar reparação”, disse o inspetor Simões.

“The voice heard on those recordings is not mine. I asked for an expert examination, but the judge did not authorize it. I paid for a voice-comparison test. The private testing shows the voice is not mine, but this was not taken into consideration. I feel that an injustice has been done. My life and that of my family is over. But I think that everyone who suffers injustice has the duty to protest, to seek reparations,” said Inspector Simôes.

Os dois policiais dizem que a Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB-RJ) teria criado uma comissão para investigar as irregularidades nesta operação. Embora ainda aguardem o resultado dos recursos impetrados, Roque e Simões pretendem, depois de concluído o processo, entrar com um pedido de indenização contra o Estado.

The two policemen claim that the Order of Brazilian Attorneys (OAB-RJ) has created a commission to investigate irregularities in “Dust on the Asphalt.”

Have they?

Did G1 call the OAB-RJ up and ask them to confirm this?

Or G1 it just plagiarizing the press release here?

Though still awaiting the results of appeals, Roque and Simões intend to file for damages against the State at the conclusion of legal proceedings.

“Não há dinheiro no mundo que pague a humilhação que estamos passando, que cubra injustiças como esta. Mas vamos lutar para limpar o nosso nome até o fim”, disse Simões.

As O Globo reported in August 2005, the investigation into a scheme to put The Fix in for Paraguayan gasoline mafias reportedly suffered from leaks.

The drug gangs of São Paulo are said to favor gasoline stations as legitimate business fronts for money-laundering purposes. The fuel convoys you read about here were coming in from São Paulo. With a police escort. Any connection there?

Okay, so, given that some freaking drunken Limey twit tried to bang down our door at our hotel here in San Francisco at 2:00 in the freaking morning and I cannot back to sleep — flying makes me nervous — I will clip some background briefing for you.

… um grupo de policiais civis, militares e federais também está sob suspeita. Os policiais estão sendo investigados no Rio acusados de supostamente cobrar até R$ 40 mil por mês de propina de empresários ligados à máfia dos combustíveis adulterados. O dinheiro — ao qual os policiais se referiam como “mensalão” antes de ter vindo à tona o escândalo político em Brasília — estaria sendo distribuído para evitar a fiscalização ou apreensão de caminhões. Os nomes dos policiais aparecem em relatório da Polícia Federal entregue ao Ministério Público federal e à Justiça federal. Eles também são acusados de tráfico de influência, de envolvimento com contrabandistas e ainda de receberem dinheiro para escoltar os comboios de caminhões com combustíveis adulterados.

… a group of state judicial and military police and federal agents are also under suspicion. The police being investigated in Rio are accused of charging up to $R40,000 a month in bribes from business owners involved in the mafia of watered-down gasoline. The money — which the police referred to as the “big monthly” even before the political scandal of that name came along — was allegedly handed out to guarantee that inspections and apprehensions of trucks would not take place. The names of the policemen appear in a federal police report submitted to the federal courts and the federal prosecutor. They are also accused of influence peddling, involvement with smugglers and even getting money to escort convoys of trucks bringing in adulterated fuel.

Dos quase 1.200 processos que estão sendo revistos, 30 foram avocados pelo Ministério Público federal porque os suspeitos teriam sido citados nas conversas telefônicas interceptadas com autorização da Justiça. São processos de empresas e referem-se a resíduos, depósitos de óleo, transportadores, mineração e postos de gasolina. Os que se referem a postos e que poderiam ter, de alguma forma, ligação com a máfia, são minoria. Os outros cerca de mil pedidos protocolados estão na vice-presidência da Feema.

Of the nearly 1,200 [environmental license applications] being reviewed, 30 were moved by the federal prosecutor because the suspects were mentioned in telephone conversations captured by court-authorized wiretaps.

Os processos, incluindo os 200 que estavam na Coordenação de Agências Regionais, foram transferidos para o Departamento de Controle Ambiental, ligado à vice-presidência, cujos técnicos receberam a incumbência de refazer, passo a passo, todos eles, observando quaisquer indícios de irregularidade, segundo a presidente da Feema, Isaura Fraga. Ela disse suspeitar que, em caso de comprovação de fraude, o envolvimento dos servidores não seja por meio da venda de licenças ambientais. Isto porque, segundo ela, licenças sobre combustíveis são emitidas pela Agência Nacional de Petróleo.

The licensing proceedings, including 200 that were working their way through the Regional Agency Coordination office, were transferred to the Department of Environmental Control, part of the office of the vice president, whose techicians were instructed to redo them all, step by step, noting any signs of irregularity, according to FEEMA president Isaura Fraga. She said she suspected that if fraud is demonstrated, it will not have been committed through the sale of environmental licenses. This because, according to Fraga, licensing of gas stations is done through the National Petroleum Agency.

— O que a Feema concede ou não são licenças para instalação de postos de combustíveis. Para o funcionamento, os postos devem seguir várias normas como ter encanamento de esgoto, equipamentos de controle de esgotamento de óleo, tanques de combustíveis adequados, entre outras exigências — disse Isaura. — Tecnicamente, eles não venderiam a coisa errada. Venderiam, talvez, agilidade nos processos de licença para postos, seguindo o raciocínio de que estes estabelecimentos receberiam combustíveis adulterados.

FEEMA issues are not licenses to install gas stations. In order to operate, gas stations must comply with various regulations such as having drain pipes, equipment for controlling oil leaks, adequate tanks, and other requirements,” she said. “Technically, they would not sell the wrong thing. They might take money to expedite the licensing process for gas stations, however, reasoning that these stations might be receiving adulterated fuel.”

O químico Thélio Moreira da Costa Lima, que foi preso, trabalhava como analista ambiental na Coordenação de Agências Regionais. Ele e sua secretária, Joseléa Borges de Oliveira, foram afastados sumariamente de suas funções e, segundo Isaura, estão sem receber salário. Celetistas e com estabilidade garantida pelo artigo 19 das Disposições Transitórias da Constituição (tinham mais de cinco anos de serviço antes de 1988, quando foram obrigatórios os concursos públicos), eles não podem ser demitidos apenas com inquéritos administrativos.

A chemist who was arrested worked as an environmental analyst in the Regional Agencies Coordination office. He and his secretary were summarily suspended and, Isaura says, are not receiving salary. As civil servants governed by Article 19 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution (they had more than five years service in 1988, when competitive examinations became the rule for public employment), they cannot be fired except after an administrative proceeding.

O caso de Joseléa foi parar na 18Vara Trabalhista e ainda não foi concluído. O processo de Thélio foi aberto na 46 Vara Trabalhista. Ambos pedem a volta aos cargos. A estratégia da Procuradoria do Estado para conseguir demiti-los é a perda de confiança, argumento previsto no Estatuto do Servidor.

The secretary’s case wound up in the 18th Labor Relations Bar and is still pending. The chemist’s case is before te 46th Labor Relations Bar. Both want their jobs back. The state prosecutor’s strategy for firing them is breach of faith, an argument allowed by the civil service statute.

An interesting little glimpse at the Kafkaesque Brazilian labor market there.

Uma gincana para aumentar a propina

A jungle gym to sweeting the bribe

Documentos a que O GLOBO teve acesso em novembro do ano passado revelaram os “grampos” da operação Poeira no Asfalto, que resultou na prisão de 47 pessoas, entre elas policiais do alto escalão da Polícia Rodoviária Federal (PRF). Nos diálogos, servidores e prestadores de serviços da Feema negociam licenças ambientais ou a retirada de multas por valores que variavam entre R$ 3 mil e R$ 10 mil. Os principais diálogos “grampeados” são mantidos entre Sandro Domingues, motorista de caminhão e funcionário da prefeitura de Duque de Caxias que estaria cedido à Feema; Thélio Moreira; e Joseléa Borges. Num deles, Sandro e Thélio comentam que funcionários do órgão fariam uma espécie de gincana para aumentar o valor da propina.

Documents to which this newspaper had access in November 2006 revealed the wiretaps in Operation Dust on the Pavement, which resulted in the arrest of 47 persons, among them high-ranking officials of the federal highway patrol. In these conversations, FEEMA employees and third-party service providers are negotiating environmental certifications or the lifting of fines for sums ranging from R$3,000 to R$10,000. The principal conversations captured are those between Sandro Domingues, a truck driver and employee of the Duque de Caxias city government seconded to FEEMA; Thélio Moreira; and Joseléa Borges. In one conversation, Sandro and Thélio comment that FEEMA officials might build a sort of jungle gym to sweeten the value of the bribe. 

Entre os presos na operação Poeira no Asfalto em novembro do ano passado estavam 21 policiais rodoviários federais, quatro fiscais de tributos estaduais, três fiscais da Feema, dois policiais civis e um bombeiro, além de empresários do setor de combustíveis, corretores e donos de postos.

Among those arrested in Dust on the Asphalt in November 2004 were 21 federal highway patrol officers, four state tax inspectors, three FEEMA auditors, two state judicial policemen and a fireman, as well as gas station employees, real estate brokers and gas station owners.

Um dos presos foi o ex-superintendente regional da Polícia Rodoviária Federal no Rio de Janeiro Francisco Carlos de Silva, de 50 anos, mais conhecido como Chico Preto. Segundo o delegado da Polícia Federal Cláudio Nogueira, que coordenou a operação no Rio, Chico Preto foi o foco da investigação que culminou com a descoberta da fraude.

One of those arrested was the former regional superintendent of the federal highway patrol in Rio de Janeiro, best known as Black Chico, 50. According to Nogueira, who is running the operation in Rio, Black Chico was the focus of the investigation that uncovered the fraud.

— Fizemos o monitoramento judicialmente autorizado para moralizar a Polícia Rodoviária. Não podemos ter servidores envolvidos na prática de delitos — disse Nogueira na ocasião das prisões.

“We got court orders for the surveillance in order to save the reputation of the federal highway patrol. We cannot have public servants committing crimes,” said Nogueira at the time of the arrests.

O delegado suspeitava que a quadrilha agia há cinco anos. O combustível, disse ele, era comprado em Campos, no Norte Fluminense, e em Paulínia, em São Paulo. Notas fiscais falsas eram emitidas para dar a impressão de que o produto seria levado para estados com alíquota de ICMS mais baixa. O destino da carga, porém, era o Rio. O bando também sonegava impostos.

Nogueira suspects the gang has been operating for five years. The fuel, he said, was bought in Campos, in the northern part of Rio sate, and in Paulínia, in São Paulo. Phony invoices were issued to give the impression that the product was being transported to states with a lower ICMS tax rate. But the real destination of the shipments was Rio. The gang also evaded taxes.

Os policiais faziam “vista grossa” à passagem de diferentes caminhões com a mesma nota fiscal pelos postos da Rodovia Presidente Dutra. A estimativa da PF é de que o golpe tenha causado um prejuízo anual de R$ 5 bilhões aos cofres públicos.

The police “looked the other way” as a number of trucks passed through the inspection checkpoints on the Via Dutra using the exact same papers. The feds estimate that this scheme might have cost the public treasury some R$5 billion a year.


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