Brazil: “Elections Judge Bribed to Overlook Illegal Fake News Scheme?”

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PDF files sometimes come in handy — when they are searchable. Twenty-one references to Tolentino in the federal police report on the Belo Horizonte Baldy prequel. I am reading up on the putative doings of DNA Propaganda. Click to zoom.

Tolentino, who now represents Marcos “The Belo Horizonte Bald Man” Valério, was a justice of the regional elections tribunal for Minas Gerais and got money from the advertising executive during the 1998 state elections, when Governor Azeredo was trying and failing to win reelection. Acting as an elections judge, Tolentino voted in favor of the Toucan candidate in decisions that took place around the same time that deposits were made in accounts controlled by him and his wife.

Consultor Jurídico passes along the reporting from the Folha de S. Paulo‘s saintly Angélica Santa Cruz:

PF diz que juiz recebeu dinheiro para favorecer PSDB

The federal police says an elections judge got money to favor the PSDB.

We are breathlessly waiting to see whether Senator Azeredo, former national president of the PSDB and governor of Minas Gerais, will be indicted in the Belo Horizonte Baldy case this week.

This investigative piece, published Sunday, primes the pump nicely.

The story is being pushed principally by the major São Paulo press: Veja magazine’s Web site, which is carrying an abbreviated gist (without attributing the reporting to its source, that I can see), the Estadão — which the Folha credits with basic reporting on some elements of the story — and so on.

It should flow out over the newswires today to the grotões.

One caveat: I am reading the police report here, and while it does note payments to the man who later became Belo Horizonte Baldy’s lawyer, I cannot seem to find where the federal police report makes the explicit charge this headline says it does.

That actually seems to be more of an original inference on the part of various reporters, supplementing the police report with research into the lawyer’s career as a judge on the elections tribunal — who simultaneously, in his private practice, represented parties with business before his court — and the case files from the cases he ruled on.

So really, this actually seems to be a story about reporters using official information as a basis for developing new information and raising new questions. (Unless, of course, they started from an anonymous tip.)

One such case in the TRE-MG — the elections tribunal — I am reading, involved the use of “fake news” — paying to place “journalistic content” favorable to the client without acknowledging that the message was paid for by an interested party. From the Folha report:

A SMPB era a responsável por alguns dos anúncios sob suspeita veiculados em jornais como informes publicitários. Relator do processo, Tolentino considerou que as publicações eram de cunho eminentemente jornalístico e não configuravam propaganda ilegal. Por isso, rejeitou a acusação de uso indevido dos meios de comunicação e abuso de poder de autoridade. Como mostra o acórdão 293/200, a representação foi considerada improcedente por maioria de votos.

SMPB [Baldy’s ad agency] was responsible for some of advertisements in dispute, which had run as articles in newspapers. In charge of the case, [regional elections judge] Tolentino ruled that the articles were clearly journalistic in nature and did not represent illegal advertising, throwing out charges of undue use of media and abuse of authority against Azeredo’s campaign. But as shown in Ruling No. 293/200, his ruling was overruled by a majority of the TRE plenary session.

On journalists and editors who will cheerfully commit gabbling acts of black advertorial for a fistful of dollars, see also

The write-up from the Estadão’s legal news service, ConJur:

Lanza Tolentino, advogado do publicitário Marcos Valério, foi juiz do Tribunal Regional Eleitoral de Minas Gerais e recebeu dinheiro do publicitário durante a campanha de 1998, quando o então governador Eduardo Azeredo (PSDB) tentou, sem êxito, a reeleição. Atuando como juiz eleitoral, Tolentino votou favoravelmente ao candidato tucano em decisões próximas a depósitos em sua conta e na de sua mulher.

Tolentino, who represents Marcos “The Belo Horizonte Bald Man” Valério, was a justice of the regional elections tribunal for Minas Gerais and got money from the advertising executive during the 1998 state elections, when Governor Azeredo was trying and failing to win reelection. Acting as an elections judge, Tolentino voted in favor of the Toucan candidate in decisions that took place around the same time that deposits were made in accounts controlled by him and his wife.

Relatório da Polícia Federal no inquérito do valerioduto mineiro registra que, entre agosto e outubro de 1998, foram feitos cinco pagamentos no total de R$ 302.350 ao juiz e a sua mulher, Vera Maria Soares Tolentino. Para a PF, seriam “recursos de estatais desviados para o caixa de coordenação financeira da campanha”. A reportagem é da Folha de S. Paulo.

The police report on the “Minas big allowance” case notes that five payments totalling R$302,350 were made to the judge and his wife between August and October 1998. The PF wrote that these were allegedly “funds from state-owned firms that had been misappropriated by the financial coordinator of the electio campaign.” The report is from the Folha de S. Paulo.

Tolentino alega que “foi advogado da agência SMPB, de Marcos Valério, entre 1988 e 2005”, e que “os pagamentos se referem a acerto de honorários que ficaram atrasados”. Os depósitos na conta da mulher foram feitos “por mera comodidade ou para evitar a cobrança de CPMF”.

Tolentino alleges that he “was an attorney for the SMPB ad agency between 1998 and 2005,” and that “the payments were for prior legal fees that were past-due.” The deposits in the account of his wife were “merely for convenience or to avoid paying the financial-transactions tax.”

For two years, the sitting judge represented a private client on the side. One that represented clients with business before his court.

But it’s not a conflict of interest.

It’s “innovation governance”!

The 2006 “Decent Brazil” campaign coalition, which supported Geraldo “Harvard alumnus” Alckmin for president, you may recall, was represented by a former justice of the federal elections tribunal. His name: a certain former Justice, ahem, Alckmin.

It is my understanding that these sorts of thing are still eminimently frowned upon by our gringo judiciary.

A SMPB participou da campanha de Azeredo. Réu do mensalão do PT pelos crimes de corrupção ativa, lavagem de dinheiro e formação de quadrilha, Tolentino foi juiz eleitoral no biênio 1998/2000, indicado para vaga de advogado em lista tríplice e nomeado pelo presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso em 20 de julho de 1998. Advogados, juízes e promotores (ouvidos com a condição de terem os nomes preservados) dizem que Tolentino sistematicamente decidia a favor da coligação do governador tucano — o que ele nega.

SMPB took part in Azeredo’s campaign. A defendant in the “PT big allowance case,” where he is charged with money laundering, bribery, and criminal conspiracy, Tolentino was an election judge from 1998-2000, chosen from a list of candidates and nominated by President Cardoso on July 20, 1998. Lawyers, judge and prosecutors (who spoke on condition of anonymity) said he systematically rule in favor of the Toucan coalition. He denies this.

Procurado pelo jornal, Tolentino inicialmente informou que “não participou de qualquer julgamento referente à campanha do então candidato Eduardo Azeredo”. Confrontado com registro de acórdão de julgamento em que atuou como relator, com voto a favor do tucano, modificou sua versão.

Asked to comment by the Folha, Tolentino initially said that he “did not participate in any case having to do with the Azeredo campaign.” Confronted with documents from a case in which he acted as relator, or reporting justice, with a vote in favor of the Toucan, he changed his story.

Dois episódios esvaziam as alegações do advogado. Em sessão realizada em 10 de setembro de 1998, o TRE-MG cassou liminar concedida pelo juiz relator Tolentino, que permitira a Azeredo usar o tempo de propaganda destinado a candidatos a deputado, contrariando a legislação eleitoral.

Two episodes undermine his crediblity on this point. In a session held September 10, 1998, the TRE-MG overturned an injunction granted by Tolentino, who allowed Azeredo to use the public political advertising airtime destined for congressional candidates, which is contrary to the legislatiom.

Em 28 de setembro de 1998, a coligação que apoiava Itamar Franco (PMDB-PST) manifestou ao TRE-MG “a notável evolução do entendimento” de Tolentino, que deferiu liminar favorável a tucanos quando, cinco dias antes, negara pedido semelhante a peemedebistas.

On September 28, 1998, the coalition supporting Itamar Franco (PMDB-PST) complained to the TRE-MG of the “noteworty bias of” the judge’s opinion, after he granted a petition favorable to Toucans after turning down a similar petition from the PMDB candidate five days earlier.

Nas sessões de 16 de setembro de 1998 e 1º de outubro de 1998, quando o TRE-MG julgou recursos sobre direito de resposta, Tolentino novamente não votou contra Azeredo.

[tktktktk]

No relatório da PF, o delegado Luís Flávio Zampronha diz que “o advogado e consultor jurídico” Tolentino foi “sistematicamente beneficiado com os recursos públicos desviados”.

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O delegado cita que “Marcos Valério fez, no dia 8 de setembro de 1998, a retirada da quantia de R$ 139.350 do fundo formado por recursos oriundos da Cemig e dos empréstimos concedidos pelo Banco Cidade (…), valor idêntico ao recebido no dia 18 de setembro de 1998 por Vera Maria Tolentino”. E acrescenta: “Possivelmente Rogério Tolentino tentará justificar tal pagamento através de supostos serviços de consultoria jurídica, mas não terá como explicar a coincidência dos valores recebidos por sua esposa e por Marcos Valério”.

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O relatório cita o desvio de recursos da Cemig e da Copasa, a título de apoio, sem licitação, ao “Enduro da Independência”, em 1998. Foram transferidos R$ 3 milhões das duas estatais à SMPB. Essa articulação foi desmontada a partir da Representação 662/98, oferecida ao TRE pela coligação de Itamar, propondo ação de investigação judicial por abuso de poder econômico contra a coligação que apoiava Azeredo.

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Nessa representação, Tolentino nega, mas participou de julgamento de recurso contra decisão determinando que o depoimento de Azeredo fosse tomado no Palácio da Liberdade. A representação gerou a Ação Civil pública por improbidade, em tramitação na Justiça Federal de MG. Na ação, Valério é defendido por Tolentino.

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Marco Valério Fernandes de Souza: Kojak fan, mineiro, ad man and indicted slush-fund facilitation defendant. The hand gesture pictured in this Wikipedia portrait, in Brazil, by the way, means “shove it up your ass” rather than “okay.” A little Brazilian Wikihumor by the poster. Though the man’s maracutaias demonstrated a lack of partisanship rare in Brazil — the Minas matter may involve 159 candidates from 17 parties — the same has not been true of the two separate trials involving what looks an awful lot to me like the self-same money-laundering scheme.

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