Authorities say they have arrested four Congressional police agents posted inside Brazil's Senate for allegedly obstructing an investigation into lawmakers' suspected involvement in the corruption-kickback scheme at state-owned oil company Petrobras. Federal police said in a statement that those arrested Friday include Pedro Carvalho, head of the Senate police, which is a distinct agency.
It said federal police suspect Carvalho of using intimidating tactics to stop its officers from investigating senators implicated in the Petrobras scheme.
Following the arrest senators denied the illegality of the acts carried out by the four officers in search of wiretaps at the private addresses of lawmakers. Three senators allegedly benefited: Gleisi Hoffmann, PT and ex cabinet chief of Dilma Rousseff; Fernando Collor, of the PTC, and Edison Lobão, PMDB. Ex-senator and onetime president José Sarney apparently also had his house searched for wiretaps.
The legitimacy controversy arises from the fact this kind of searches are prescribed by the Rules of the Senate, but have been considered an obstruction of justice for having used public funds for acts of counter-intelligence outside the National Congress at the addresses of lawmakers probed by the Supreme Court. The argument was accepted by the Federal Court, which authorized the arrests.
In response, Senate President Renan Calheiros issued a note, in which he states that the congressional police carries out its activities as prescribed by the Constitution, the legal rules, and the Senate's administrative regulations. He adds that searches for covert listening devices are restricted to illegal devices, as provided for in the Rules.
Senator Gleisi Hoffmann admitted that she had requested Senate security officers to electronically search for covert listening devices at her houses in Brasília and Curitiba. The request was made after her husband, former planning minister Paulo Bernardo, was arrested in a Federal Police operation. In a statement, she explained: I just wanted to get an accurate information about my residence. According to her, nothing was found.
Senator Edison Lobão's defense also admitted that the senator asked for searches at his private addresses, but in search of illegal listening devices, not authorized by the court, adding that nothing was found.
There is no irregularity in this request, this task is performed by the congressional police, said lawyer Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro. He denied that the onetime president and ex-senator, José Sarney, who is also his client, had requested any search of this kind.
Senator Fernando Collor issued a statement in which he also denies having benefited from any act of the Senate security officers out of their institutional functions.
The Federal Police has searched the premisses of the congressional police at the Senate for about three hours early Friday, October 21, and took out 10 bags of documents and electronic equipment used to search for covert listening devices.
The head of the congressional police and one of four officers arrested, Pedro Ricardo Carvalho, is considered very close to Senator Renan Calheiros. The officers face charges of armed criminal conspiracy, malfeasance in office, and tampering with investigations of criminal offenses.