Justice Minister message leaks could destroy Op. Car Wash

. Jun 10, 2019
dallagnol lula sergio moro From left to right: Deltan Dallagnol, Lula, Sergio Moro

Since the finale of Game of Thrones, Brazil’s Sunday evenings were bereft of political intrigue, scandal, and betrayal. But if you know the country at least a tiny bit, you knew that wouldn’t last for long. On Sunday evening, news website The Intercept published a series of reports based on private messages exchanged between Operation Car Wash prosecutors and then-federal judge Sergio Moro and leaked by a source.

The site says the exposés are “merely the beginning of what we intend to be an ongoing journalistic investigation, using this massive archive of material, into the Car Wash corruption probe.” The Intercept also says their reports bear no relation to the recent phone hacking of Justice Minister Sergio Moro. As the journalists also had access to conversations between prosecutors only (not limited to Mr. Moro), that seems to be true.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The editors of the pieces chose not to seek comment from the subjects. &#8220;We contacted them immediately upon publication and will update the stories with their comments if and when they provide them.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The tone of the messages (of which we only had access to fragments) shows the deep disdain prosecutors have for the Workers&#8217; Party—something that hardly comes as a surprise to those who have followed how the investigation unfolded since being launched in 2014. What is truly shocking—and crucial—in the revelations is how then-Federal Judge Sergio Moro (Brazil&#8217;s current Justice Minister) worked as a partner of the investigators.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That revelation is rather troubling.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Brazil, judges are meant to be impartial arbiters—never allowed to collude with defense teams or prosecutors. But the reports show Mr. Moro getting dangerous cozy with prosecutors, even quarterbacking them in many situations. In one case (conversation below), he tipped off Operation Car Wash coordinator Deltan Dallagnol about possible evidence against former President Lula.</span></p> <p><script>(function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);;js.src='';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}(document,'script','playbuzz-sdk'));</script></p> <div class="playbuzz" data-id="e17a329b-a62b-4e2b-8e0c-e3822459ddd3" data-show-share="false" data-show-info="false"></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So far, as political scientist Celso Rocha de Barros </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">writes</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, there is no evidence of fabricated evidence being used in the cases. In other words, the Car Wash leaks don&#8217;t prove anyone&#8217;s innocence—which doesn&#8217;t mean, in the light of this new evidence, that all convictions were legal. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The case of former President Lula is particularly troubling. As we&#8217;ve </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">reported</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> previously, Lula&#8217;s trial was fast-tracked once it reached the appellate court system—ultimately excluding him from the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">2018 presidential race</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Now, the former president has a solid case that his trials didn&#8217;t follow the normal legal procedures. </span></p> <h2>What do the leaks mean for Lula, Sergio Moro and Operation Car Wash?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Many left-wing political actors have called for the annulment of Lula&#8217;s conviction—saying his case was rigged from the get-go. But it remains uncertain whether he would be able to overturn a guilty verdict because of (a) the Judicial system&#8217;s corporatism, and (b) the fact that the evidence (the leaked messages) was possibly illegally obtained by </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Intercept</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8216;s source (which, from a journalistic standpoint, doesn&#8217;t mean the website has done anything wrong).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This analysis, of course, depends on what else is coming.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But the leaks certainly leave an indelible dent on the operation&#8217;s reputation—which prosecutors have always insisted was &#8220;apolitical,&#8221; even when their behavior proved otherwise. For Mr. Moro, the hit could be even worse. In Brasília, many have already called for his resignation as Justice Minister. Behind the scenes, some Supreme Court members have called his actions &#8220;appalling.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Last month, President Jair Bolsonaro publicly promised Mr. Moro a </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">seat on the Supreme Court</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">—which now seems like an afterthought. Not because Mr. Moro could be seen as a vigilante who trumped the law to put Lula behind bars—if anything, that only </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">rose</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s appreciation for the former judge. However, all Supreme Court appointments must be confirmed by the Senate, where Mr. Moro&#8217;s enemies are numerous. In light of these revelations, would the upper house be willing to green-light his nomination? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is one fascinating piece of irony in this whole ordeal. The leaked messages were exchanged on Telegram, a Russian messaging app. For years, the left has called Mr. Moro an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. His demise, however, could come for using an app that can </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">share information with Russia&#8217;s spy agency</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> …

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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