Leaked Messages From ‘Hacker’ Released in Brazilian Corruption Case
(Bloomberg) -- Justice Minister Sergio Moro denied wrongdoing during his tenure as a judge in charge of Brazil’s largest-ever corruption investigation after the publication of alleged messages between members of that probe, known as Carwash.
The messages released by The Intercept website on Sunday supposedly show Moro sharing information and giving advice to prosecutors working in the case that resulted in the conviction of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for corruption and money laundering. They also show efforts to stop Lula from giving an interview days before the October presidential election, for fear that he could boost chances of his Workers’ Party candidate.
The Intercept said an anonymous source sent it an archive weeks ago with a “sheer amount of information,” including audios and videos, which it is still analyzing and will continue to report on. The website put out the story before seeking comment from the parts involved as it feared “restraint orders” that could stop the publication, it said.
In a statement, Moro said the messages were taken out of context and don’t reveal any anomaly in his actions as a judge. In a separate statement, Carwash prosecutors said they were victim of “a criminal action perpetrated by a hacker” and that they are available to provide clarifications.
Since its inception five years ago, the Carwash probe has unveiled a massive scheme of kickbacks in contracts with state-owned companies that involved the nation’s largest builders and leading politicians. Widespread disgust over corruption was a key factor in propelling President Jair Bolsonaro to an election victory last year while Lula, his most popular adversary, was in jail. The report comes at a sensitive moment for the president, who’s trying to muster support in Congress to approve a controversial pension overhaul.
Brazil Supreme Court Judge Marco Aurelio Mello said in an interview that the notion of private conversations between Moro and prosecutors is "unthinkable." While it’s still difficult to predict the impact of the revelations, there’s a chance that lawyers for Carwash case defendants will request that their clients’ sentences be annulled, he said.
Analysts at Brasilia-based consultancy Arko Advice said the reports are likely to have ample political and legal repercussions, including a possible attempt by lawmakers to create a congressional inquiry committee, court cases seeking the annulment of Carwash sentences and an eventual delay in Congress’ pension reform debate. The Brazilian currency fell 0.3% to 3.89 per dollar in morning trading as concerns about the political impact of the leaked messages weighed on its performance.
“More leaks can happen, further complicating the situation,” the Arko Advice analysts wrote in a note to clients.
In the aftermath of the report, Bolsonaro called meetings with Vice President Hamilton Mourao and his Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni, as well as the heads of both houses of Congress, who had to cancel scheduled meetings in Sao Paulo. The president of the lower house special committee on pension reform said the leaks would not delay debates about the bill.
“We’re going to make an effort to shield pension reform,” deputy Marcelo Ramos said in an interview.
The leaked messages prompted reactions from Lula’s lawyer and members of his Workers’ Party, as well as calls for Moro to resign.
“Nobody can doubt that the cases against former President Lula are tarnished by the most serious violations of fundamental rights,” Lula’s lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins wrote in a statement. “Reestablishing Lula’s full freedom is urgent.”
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