Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva was “the chief” of the corruption network the ruling Workers Party had organized to have sufficient votes in Congress, according to a report published in the weekly Veja, the magazine with the largest circulation in the country.
The Brazilian Supreme Tribunal is currently addressing the “mensalao” corruption case involving 37 former government officials, lawmakers and publicists whom back in 2005 set up a system by which certain members of Congress received a hefty monthly payment to support government legislation and which was funded from government sources and privately through publicists.
The trial of the century as it is known in Brazil took off just a few weeks before municipal elections in Brazil and could have an impact for the ruling party.
Veja published that Marcos Valerio, the publicist most involved in the case and identified as the main operator as far as the funds and their distribution, stated that Lula da Silva commanded the whole operation and “I was but a deluxe messenger; but the president he was undoubtedly the chief and well aware of what was going on”.
The Brazilian Supreme Tribunal last week sentenced eight of the 37 accused, among which Valerio, who is seen at the heart of the scheme together with board members from the Rural Bank. They were all indicted for money laundering, fraudulent accountancy in the Workers Party’s books and simulated loans involving millions of Reais with the purpose of leaving no traces.
Last 15 August the Supreme Tribunal denied a petition to have Lula da Silva included in the massive corruption case for his involvement while president (2003/2010). However the magistrates argued that the prosecution had already excluded the former president from the case.
Valerio insists that on several occasions he met with the former head of government and “everything I did President Lula was well aware”
Lula da Silva took distance from the case which blew up in 2005 and involved the whole board of the Workers Party, particularly cabinet chief Jose Dirceu, at that time the most powerful man in the presidency. But the president always denied knowledge of what was going on and said he had been betrayed by his close aides and party leaders and publicly apologized to Brazilian public opinion.
“From Dirceu’s office to Lula’s it was only one floor and a few steps. We needed no appointment, Dirceu would say let’s go downstairs and there we met the big chief”, revealed Valerio.
This week begins a crucial leg of the trial when the members of the Workers Party board will have to reply about the money used in the ‘mensalao’ to pay members of Congress and finance their electoral campaigns, plus the laundering of the funds, and equally important their origin.
Lula da Silva ruled eight years and left his had picked successor, Dilma Rousseff who became the first woman president of Brazil. The outgoing president beat all support and popularity ratings when he stepped down.
Brazilian politics are well known to be quite flexible when not outright corrupt given a system which enables a proliferation of political parties, most of them with limited fidelity be it not to be opportunistic.