Brazil’s Federal Police Chief under suspicion

. Feb 15, 2018
Federal Police Chief Fernando Segovia has collected controversies Federal Police Chief Fernando Segovia has collected controversies. Photo: Roberto Jayme/TSE
Federal Police Chief Fernando Segovia has collected controversies

Federal Police Chief Fernando Segovia has collected controversies. Photo: Roberto Jayme/TSE

President Michel Temer is certainly a lucky man. Last year, when he faced a trial in the Superior Electoral Court that risked unseating him, two of the court’s seven judges left their offices. Temer was able to choose the next two judges and swung the majority in his favor. Since then, Temer has also had the opportunity to appoint Brazil’s top prosecutor and a new Federal Police Chief.

Since Temer and many of his administration’s senior officials have been rattled by corruption investigations, each of the president’s picks was met with widespread public skepticism. Was Temer actually choosing qualified people for such important jobs, or was he instead interested in naming people that would cut him some slack? In the case of Federal Police Chief Fernando Segovia, these doubts have resurfaced.

</p> <p>Over the weekend, Segovia gave an interview to Reuters commenting on a case involving Temer. The president is suspected of receiving bribes in exchange for signing a decree crafted to benefit companies operating in Brazilian ports. In January, a police report stated that the Feds should request a warrant to access Temer’s confidential bank and fiscal information, and also to monitor his phone. But in his Reuter’s interview, Segovia said that there was no sign of any wrongdoing by the president.</p> <p>Following the report’s publication, Supreme Court Justice Luís Roberto Barroso has ordered Segovia to explain himself: the police chief shouldn’t be commenting on ongoing investigations. Representing more than a simple <a href="">imprudent</a> act, his words could constitute “improper behavior” and he risks being placed under investigation. Segovia and Barroso will meet next week.</p> <p>The statement also infuriated federal detectives, who want the National Association of Federal Investigators to push for Segovia’s firing. The move speaks volumes, given the fact that federal marshals tend to protect one another. A group of detectives working on Operation Car Wash, the massive investigation into corruption within the federal government, have also reminded the public that it this wasn’t the first questionable move committed by Segovia.</p> <h3>Controversies</h3> <p>Segovia took office as the Federal Police Chief in November. Within just three months, he has accumulated a series of controversies. The first preceded his inauguration, as <a href="">his name was vouched</a> for by the president’s Chief of Staff, Eliseu Padilha, and former President José Sarney – both of these men, of course, are regularly featured in corruption probes.</p> <p>Weeks into his new job, Segovia issued a statement similar to the one that recently got him into trouble. He commented on another investigation involving the president. Back in May, an <a href="">audio recording went public</a> between Temer and businessman Joesley Batista, owner of the JBS meatpacking group. They discussed the payment of hush money to a former House Speaker involved in Operation Car Wash. Then, Temer said that Batista should “deal” with Temer’s personal aide to address his demands with the federal government. Days later, this aide was filmed receiving a bag full of cash from an emissary sent by Batista.</p> <p>For Segovia, however, this episode <a href="">doesn’t indicate</a> any wrongdoing. “Maybe just one bag is not enough to say whether or not there was a crime – or who committed it,” said Segovia in November, adding that the Federal Prosecution Office didn’t properly conduct the investigation.</p> <p>But it’s not only his outspoken antics that distinguishes Segovia from his predecessors. His direct contact with President Michel Temer has also raised eyebrows. Formally, the Federal Police Chief operates under the Ministry of Justice, yet Segovia has bypassed his boss a few times and met with Temer alone at least two times – and one of those happened to be during the same week that Temer had to respond to a Federal Police inquiry. On both occasions, the meetings were concealed from Temer’s public schedule.</p> <p>Segovia’s case will be investigated by the Presidency’s Ethics Committee on Monday. However, the committee has no power to suspend or remove anyone from office. It can only reprimand offenders. And just one person is able to change Segovia’s fate: Temer. Apparently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Temer seems quite happy with the police chief’s performance.

Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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