How Jair Bolsonaro has tampered with accountability institutions

. Aug 20, 2019
bolsonaro accountability Flávio, Jair, and Michelle Bolsonaro

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro presents himself as a family man. Indeed, in the past two months, he has used his power to protect his loved ones. Here we are not talking about the impending nomination of his third son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, to the position of Brazilian ambassador to the U.S. Beyond that, Mr. Bolsonaro has directly interfered in three of the country’s most important agencies in the fight against corruption.

What do they have in common? All three have launched investigations into someone close to the president.

</p> <p>Last week, Mr. Bolsonaro surprised (and infuriated) members of the Federal Police after announcing that Ricardo Saadi, the superintendent of the force in Rio de Janeiro, would be replaced due to &#8220;productivity issues.&#8221; Marshals in the state have been investigating connections between Rio&#8217;s urban militias and money laundering schemes operating out of the state legislative assembly, a probe which includes Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, the president&#8217;s eldest son.</p> <p>Today, on the government&#8217;s <a href="http://www.in.gov.br/web/dou/-/portaria-n-1.419-de-19-de-agosto-de-2019-211445944">Federal Register</a>—which publishes every official decision made by the Executive branch—there was confirmation that Mr. Bolsonaro is also trying to tamper with the Federal Revenue Service and the country&#8217;s money laundering enforcement agency Coaf, which is also involved in investigations into his son.</p> <h2>Changes to the tax authority</h2> <p>The government has recently signaled it could change the entire top level of officials at the Federal Revenue Service. On Monday, the president ordered the dismissal of the agency&#8217;s number two, João Paulo Ramos Fachada. The job of current tax secretary, Marcos Cintra, is also at risk, with Jair Bolsonaro suggesting he will stay put &#8220;for now.&#8221;</p> <p>Despite the pressure, Mr. Cintra appears to be trying to outfox President Bolsonaro, if two recent ordinances from the Federal Revenue Service are anything to go by. After being pushed into firing Mr. Fachada, Marcos Cintra granted a number of his departed ally&#8217;s powers to the Deputy Tax and Litigation Secretary.</p> <p>The practical effects of this move are that the Deputy General Secretary chosen by Jair Bolsonaro to replace Mr. Fachada will arrive in Brasilia with a significantly reduced role in comparison with his predecessor.&nbsp;</p> <p>The heir of these powers within the tax authority will be Luiz Fernando Teixeira Nunes, who is one of the figures left over from the previous government and opposed to outside interference in the Federal Revenue Service.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p><em>UPDATE (Aug. 21, 2019): The changes issued by Marcos Cintra lasted for less than 24 hours, however, as an ordinance was quickly published suspending the alterations. The powers have now been handed back to the Deputy General Secretary. Mr. Cintra also issued a 30-day suspension of the Deputy General Secretary&#8217;s powers to appoint public servants to positions of trust and issue &#8220;acts of nominations for permanent offices, promotions, removals, vacancies, readaptations, reversals, and reinstatements.&#8221;</em></p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>A new money laundering enforcement agency</h2> <p>Coaf, the Brazilian money laundering enforcement agency has come under significant pressure from the Jair Bolsonaro government so far this year. Public prosecutors and federal police in Rio de Janeiro are currently investigating the financial activity of the president&#8217;s son, Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, after a Coaf report highlighted a number of suspicious bank transactions involving his former advisor and driver, Fabrício Queiroz.</p> <p>The Bolsonaro family has blasted the report as &#8220;illegal&#8221; and the president has continuously attacked Coaf, culminating in a provisional decree this week which changes the agency entirely.</p> <p>First of all, the entity would no longer be called Coaf, changing its name to the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) and placing it under the umbrella of the Central Bank. The measure guarantees the &#8220;technical and operational autonomy&#8221; of the new agency, but the Central Bank board will establish the rules for administrative proceedings to be pursued by the UIF, as well as deciding on &#8220;criteria for grading punishment.&#8221;</p> <p>Another change removes the prior requirement for Coaf board members to be permanent public servants of government agencies. Now, any Brazilian citizen &#8220;with undoubted reputation and recognized knowledge in combating money laundering&#8221; may be nominated for a board seat. The responsibility for appointing these board members and the UIF president is solely that of Central Bank President <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/03/13/roberto-campos-neto-central-bank/">Roberto Campos Neto</a>.

 
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