[Update, 4-6-2016: according to an article in today’s Globo, the state Attorney General’s office has opened an inquiry in response to reports published in the paper in the last several days:
“Public prosecutor Rubem Vianna, head of the Attorney General office’s tax evasion department, announced there will be an investigative procedure:
‘The journalistic work reveals that very serious events occurred, which merit swift action on the part of this office, to determine the criminal responsibility of the tax inspectors who used their posts as public servants to practice acts prejudicial to taxpayers.’
Yesterday, State Attorney General Marfan Martins Vieira’s office said that he will await the Upper Council’s April decision regarding closing or continuing an investigative procedure to look into animal sales involving Jorge Picciani, before taking a decision to investigate alleged crimes attributed to people with judicial privileges.”
Two inspectors now under suspicion also left their posts]
Today’s Globo published the third of a series of reports on what could be a business network full of conflicts of interest, created by state representative Jorge Picciani, president of the State Legislature and father of two sons in key posts at the city and federal levels.
[Clique aqui para português]
[Click here to read yesterday’s post, summing up the series’ first two reports]
Information about the network comes at a time of multiple distractions for Brazilians, focused as they are on making a living (and staying alive, for those who live in a growing number of areas of conflict in the metro region), on the Lava-Jato investigations, President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings, the “Panama Papers” and so many other topics.
In Rio today, we had a gas explosion in the North Zone that killed five and injured twelve people.
Even in this tumultuous context, the importance of these reports cannot be underestimated. If the state Attorney General takes on the inherent accusations, carries out an investigation and sends indictments to the Judiciary– and if the courts conclude that Picciani did in fact engage in criminal acts together with tax inspectors and state contractors — a great deal could change in Rio de Janeiro.
We’ve never had so much information pointing in this direction.
Today’s report reveals that tax inspectors are not the only people who have made suspect visits to the offices of Picciani’s cattle business in Barra. The 2014-2015 leaked visitor list also includes executives from construction companies involved in the Lava-Jato corruption scandal, at work on huge state projects: Andrade Gutierrez, Carioca Engenharia and OAS.
The three, according to the newspaper, donated R$ 1,8 million to election campaigns of the Picciani family; and R$ 8 million to the state offices of Picciani’s party, the PMDB.
If it were solely up to institutions and their constitutional roles, the Globo reports would signal a light at the end of the tunnel of Rio’s troubled state finances. Except that, according to the paper, Rio state Attorney General Marfan Martins Vieira not long ago closed an “investigation into the sale of animals belonging to Jorge Picciani”:
“The state Attorney General’s office did investigate suspected illegal gain on the part of Picciani related to rural business dealings. A public civil investigation begun on June 26 2013, when he was not in office, began to look into animal sales that may have served to mask personal gain from public funds. But with Picciani’s return to the State Assembly and his election to its presidency, the case was taken over by state Attorney General Marfan Martins Vieira, and closed.
The investigation began with a contract to manage Detran vehicle inspection stations by way of a March 10 memorandum of understanding with Funcefet, the Cefet Support Foundation. This agency, in turn, subcontracted the DKF Engenharia company belonging to businessman Sérgio Shcolnik, who received about R$ 480,000 a month for the service. According to the Attorney General’s office,the company received a total of almost R$ 8.7 million. However, an inspection carried out by the state Accounts Court (TCE) found that the firm never delivered the service. During the second “Ópera & Bilara” auction (10-25-2004), Shcolnik paid Picciani R$ 511,000 for the fruit of a cross between the cow Bonanza with an undetermined bull.”
Marfan Vieira has another question in his hands, relating to a corruption scandal at the state police health fund and Picciani (who enjoys judicial privileges, as a legislator), closed to public access.
Fortunately, the shelved inquiry regarding the Detran stations, dating to 2013, must still come under consideration by the state Attorney General office’s Upper Council. Perhaps the Council will now hasten its pace on the proceedings.
Also, says Chico Otávio, one of the reporters responsible for the series, the Federal Attorney General’s office may decide to open its own inquiry, since there are indications of, at very least, overlap between Picciani’s alleged network and the Lava-Jato one.
The Civil Police’s Finance Investigations Office, according to O Globo, is set to investigate the tax inspectors’ visits to Picciani’s Agrobilara offices. In today’s paper, Picciani says he doubts the veracity of the visitor list leaked to the reporters by an unknown source. The journalists say they took the precaution of checking the listed visits with the visitors themselves.
Ultimately, if we want a state with enough revenue to provide adequate schools, health system, public safety and sanitation, among many other public services– it’s up to society to pressure for official investigations of the information published in Globo.