Why was São Paulo’s transport secretary placed under arrest?

. Aug 06, 2020
health corruption Alexandre Baldy Alexandre Baldy. Photo: Anderson Riedel/PR

Federal police officers arrested São Paulo State Transport Secretary Alexandre Baldy on Thursday morning, under suspicion that he defrauded public health contracts. Another two people were detained, among them a researcher from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) research institute.

The arrests were part of the haughtily named Operation Dardanários — meaning ‘forestaller,’ or someone who buys up goods before they are sold on the open market — and concerns the misapplication of funds in the area of health in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, involving federal agencies. The Federal Police states that it found “collusion between businessmen and public agents,” who allegedly rigged public procurement processes.

</p> <p>Among the contracts under investigation involve social organizations and the Dr. Albanir Faleiros Machado Urgent Care hospital (Hurso) in Goiás, the Goiás Commerce Registry, and the National Health Foundation (Funasa/Fiocruz).</p> <p>The contracts date back to the administration of former Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral, who is currently serving a mammoth 280-year prison sentence for a string of corruption charges. Mr. Baldy, and the others involved in the operation, will answer for the crimes of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, and criminal organization.</p> <p>Alexandre Baldy — who between 2011 and 2013 served as Industry Secretary for the state of Goiás — is the son-in-law of Marcelo Limirio, an influential pharmaceutical entrepreneur who previously made the headlines for his ties to illegal gambling boss Carlinhos Cachoeira, arrested and convicted for running a bribery scheme. That same case reached ex-Senator Demóstenes Torres, accused of receiving payments to approve bills on behalf of Mr. Cachoeira.</p> <h2>Politician owns multiple mansions</h2> <p>Alexandre Baldy was arrested at his home in the upmarket São Paulo neighborhood of Jardins, one of the wealthiest districts in Brazil. Police officers also carried out search warrants in Brasilia, Petrópolis, and Goiânia. At another of Mr. Baldy’s apartments in Goiânia, agents seized BRL 110,000 (USD 20,500) in cash. At a mansion belonging to the politician in the capital Brasilia, police found a further BRL 90,000 inside two safes.</p> <p>The politician bought his Brasília home for BRL 7.6 million in 2016. <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> ascertained that the property — on a 1,300-square-meter plot of land — has four bedrooms, an elevator, air conditioning in all rooms, a wine cellar, marble floors, a heated swimming pool, and a function room. There is also a four-car garage and a large garden.&nbsp;</p> <p>With an apartment in one of the most expensive buildings in Goiânia and a mansion in a gated community in Anápolis, both in his home state of Goiás, Alexandre Baldy acquired the property in Brasília upon being elected to Federal Congress. With the new job, he also gained the right to a work apartment, which he only gave up after the press revealed he already owned property in the city.</p> <p>Besides his extensive portfolio of real estate in some of Brazil’s most lavish neighborhoods, it is low-income housing that has put Mr. Baldy in hot water in the past. The Office of the Federal Comptroller General (CGU) found serious irregularities in contracts for 17,000 residential units of the Minha Casa Minha Vida housing program, dating back to the end of the Michel Temer government. </p> <p>At the time, Mr. Baldy was the Minister of Cities, and oversaw the selection of construction companies for the works, signing off on housing contracts worth BRL 1.4 billion, despite having no forecast for this expense in the budget.</p> <h2>Health scandal could affect Doria&#8217;s run for presidency</h2> <p>São Paulo Governor João Doria rushed to Twitter on Thursday morning to stress that the events which led to the charges against Mr. Baldy had no connection to the current administration. However, the arrest could undermine Mr. Doria’s bid to win the Brazilian presidency in 2022.</p> <p>In charge of transport, Mr. Baldy is one of the governor’s most trusted secretaries. His imprisonment is the biggest political embarrassment faced by João Doria since he took office in São Paulo. The governor’s inner circle expects Mr. Baldy to resign as soon as possible.</p> <p>Speaking to newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Mr. Doria&#8217;s allies complained that the conduct attributed to Mr. Baldy has gone unpunished for other prominent politicians in the past. Unlike previous cases involving high-ranking officials targeted by the courts, such as ex-cabinet ministers Gilberto Kassab and Aloysio Nunes Ferreira, this time the investigation culminated in an arrest.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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