Justice secretary kept rent-free government flat months after leaving administration

josé vicente santini Justice secretary kept rent-free government flat months after leaving administration
National Justice Secretary José Vicente Santini. Photo: Mateus Bonomi/Agif/Folhapress

José Vicente Santini, Brazil’s national justice secretary, continued to live in his rent-free commuter apartment for four months after leaving his post within the government. 

Mr. Santini lived in a government-managed apartment in Asa Norte, a neighborhood in central Brasília, between March 2019 and May 2020, according to official records obtained by The Brazilian Report via a request through the Access to Information Act. Rent in the same neighborhood hovers around BRL 5,500 (USD 1,071), not including housing charges. That is equivalent to 4.5 times the monthly minimum wage.

Between March 2019 and January 2020, Mr. Vicente served as deputy chief of staff, working directly with President Jair Bolsonaro. He was relieved of his duties after the press revealed that he used a Brazilian Air Force jet to fly from Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum, to India, where he was meeting the president. He had no prerogative to do so.

Despite no longer serving the administration, the government allowed him to stay in his flat for four months. 

Mr. Santini, who is a personal friend of the president’s sons, was appointed in September 2020 as deputy environment minister. He then hopped over to the president’s General-Secretariat’s Office — once again working directly with Mr. Bolsonaro — and in August 2021 became Brazil’s national justice secretary, one of the most important positions within the Justice Ministry.

In April 2020, when he was still living in the government-managed apartment, Mr. Santini bought a penthouse in an upscale neighborhood for BRL 4.2 million. Then, in 2022, he used that property as down payment for a mansion in Brasília’s most prized area, worth BRL 6.7 million. 

The transactions were revealed by the news website Metrópoles. The website reports that part of the millionaire transactions was made in cash. The rest reportedly came in installments greater than his monthly wage.

The mansion is in the same compound where Flávio Bolsonaro, the president’s eldest son, bought a mansion worth BRL 5.9 million. 

In November last year, The Brazilian Report revealed that Mr. Santini gave himself the last word on all extradition requests sent to other countries. The move came when the Supreme Court ordered the arrest and extradition of pro-Bolsonaro blogger Allan dos Santos, who is accused of inciting anti-democratic demonstrations. Since then, Mr. Santos’ case has not moved forward.

The National Justice Secretariat has so far declined a request for comment. The presidency’s Ethics Committee says it will only comment on the matter if provoked in its next meeting, scheduled for next month.