Exclusive: Brazilian Judge in Car Wash Corruption Case Mocked Lula’s Defense and Secretly Directed Prosecutors’ Media Strategy During Trial

Brazil’s Justice Minister Sergio Moro, while serving as a judge in a corruption case that upended Brazilian politics, took to private chats to mock the defense of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and direct prosecutors’ media strategy, according to newly unearthed chats from an archive obtained by The Intercept Brasil.

The new revelations, which were published in Portuguese by The Intercept Brasil on Friday, have added fuel to a weeklong political firestorm in Brazil. The country’s largest circulation newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, said the reporting suggests that officials “ignored the limits of the law,” while UOL, a news website, said jurists view the revelations as “grave.” The site quoted the head of a national criminal law association saying, “This is unthinkable in any democracy. It’s scary.”

In the newly revealed chats with a senior prosecutor — a member of the team working on the Operation Car Wash corruption case — Moro said, “Maybe, tomorrow, you should prepare a press release” to point out inconsistencies in Lula’s arguments, adding, “The defense already put on their little show.”

“You should prepare a press release explaining the contradictions between his testimony and the rest of the evidence or with his previous testimony. After all, the defense already put on their little show.”

Moro’s advice was a major deviation from their previous communications strategy, but prosecutors did as he asked — further evidence of bias and unethical collaboration between the two parties in the case that sent Lula to prison on corruption charges, making the most popular politician in Brazil ineligible to run in the 2018 presidential election.

The newly published chats come from an archive of documents, provided to The Intercept Brasil by an anonymous source, which includes years of private communications from the prosecutorial task force responsible for the Car Wash case, the largest anti-corruption investigation in Brazilian history.

Last weekend, The Intercept published explosive group chats between Car Wash prosecutors and conversations between task force coordinator Deltan Dallagnol and Moro, showing that the then-judge and the prosecutors were unethically and inappropriately collaborating in secret. Despite repeatedly insisting in public that they were acting ethically and impartially, the chats revealed that the judge was passing on advice, investigative leads, and inside information to the prosecutors — who were themselves plotting to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party from winning last year’s election.

Lula, who had been the far and away favorite in election polls, was rendered ineligible by his conviction, and instead the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro handily won over Lula’s replacement. Lula has maintained that he was not granted a fair trial. Moro is now Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

In an interview on Friday with the Estado de São Paulo newspaper, Moro said, “The Brazilian legal tradition does not prevent personal contact and such conversations between judges, lawyers, detectives, and prosecutors.” This type of communication is “absolutely normal,” he added. However, the chats published by The Intercept Brasil show that the communication went far beyond “personal contact” and “conversations” to include directives as to how the prosecutors should operate inside and outside of the courtroom.

The Car Wash task force refused to comment on the contents of this story. In a statement, Moro declined to speak to the substance of this article, but said, “The Minister of Justice and Public Security will not comment on alleged messages from public authorities collected through criminal invasion by hackers and that may have been tampered with and edited, especially without prior analysis by independent authorities that can certify their integrity. In the case in question, the alleged messages were not even sent previously.”

Despite repeatedly using the phrase “alleged messages,” Moro acknowledged the authenticity of at least one of the conversations this past Friday. Questioned during a press conference about having passed on an investigative lead to prosecutors on December 7, 2015, Moro said it was an “oversight on my part.”

“The Defense Already Put on Their Little Show”

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Prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima talks about the 26th stage of the Lava Jato operation, called Xepa, during a press conference at the Superintendency of the Federal Police in Curitiba, Brazil, on March 22, 2016.

Photo: Heuler Andrey/AFP/Getty Images

“What did you think?” It was 10:04 p.m. on May 10, 2017, and then-Judge Sergio Moro was using the Telegram messaging app to talk with Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima, a senior prosecutor in the Operation Car Wash task force. Moro had just wrapped up one of the most important days of his career and was looking for feedback.

In a modest courtroom in the city of Curitiba, Moro had deposed Lula for more than five hours, as thousands of the former president’s supporters protested outside. Later that day, video recordings of the unusual proceedings — unusual because former presidents are rarely tried on corruption charges and also because judges don’t usually interrogate the accused for hours on end — were released to the public. Less than a year later, Moro would sentence Lula to more than nine years in prison for receiving a beachfront triplex apartment as a bribe for facilitating contracts with the state-run oil company Petrobras. But, for the moment, the judge was concerned about how the public was receiving the news about his interrogation of Lula.

“I thought it went really well,” Santos Lima, the prosecutor, responded. “He started antagonizing us, which gave me some peace of mind. He contradicted himself in small details and didn’t answer a lot of things, this is not well understood by the public. You starting with the Triplex left him uneasy.” The conversation continued:

Ten minutes after his last message to Moro, Santos Lima sent a request in the “clippings analysis” group chat, used by prosecutors to coordinate media strategy and monitor coverage together with two press aides:

The press aide’s surprise and confusion over the request demonstrates that Moro was suggesting a dramatic shift in the Car Wash prosecutors’ typical communications strategy. Up until that point, they had not been in the habit of commenting publicly on the trial proceedings.

Santos Lima then forwarded his exchange with the judge to Car Wash coordinator Deltan Dallagnol, who responded in a group chat with other prosecutors:

Minutes later, Dallagnol chimed in to reinforce Santos Lima’s request in the chat with the press aides , and the second press aide reiterated their objections more forcefully:

Dallagnol also messaged Moro to congratulate him on his performance in court that day and discuss the judge’s suggestion: “Congratulations on keeping control of the hearing in such a serene and respectful way. We are pondering an eventual statement. GN [Globonews] just showed a series of contradictions and evasions. We’re keeping track.”

Moro again suggested that the prosecutors consider issuing a statement to the press. He said, “OK. I also have my doubts about the pertinence of a statement, but we should think about it due to the subtleties involved.”

Under the Brazilian judicial system, the judge and the prosecution are required to operate independently to ensure a fair trial. However, in this case, Car Wash prosecutors spent hours crafting a communications strategy at the judge’s suggestion in order to, in the words of their leader, “comfort the judge.”

Prosecutors Deliver on Moro’s Suggestion

The following afternoon, the Car Wash prosecutors put out a statement attacking Lula’s arguments and using the exact word Moro had suggested: contradictions. “As for the many verified contradictions in the questioning of ex-President Lula,” read the statement. “[T]he Federal Public Prosecutor will address this in due course, during the trial, particularly during closing arguments.”

Media coverage was dominated by the prosecutors’ allegations of contradictions. The Folha de São Paulo newspaper ran an article the next day with the headline, “Lula’s testimony had ‘several contradictions’, prosecutors say.” Exame magazine ran a piece titled, “Car Wash task force sees contradictions in Lula’s testimony.” The Estado de São Paulo ran with “Prosecutors accuse Lula’s defense of lying in triplex case.”

Santos Lima, the first prosecutor to receive Moro’s suggestion to speak out about the “contradictions” in Lula’s defense, did an interview with Estado de São Paulo’s “Broadcast Político” podcast, in which he said he did “not see any consistency” in Lula’s claims and defended Moro in response to the former president’s criticisms.

Later that night, 24 hours after Moro’s initial suggestion, Dallagnol messaged the judge to inform him that they had submitted a petition “more for strategy” that was “not essential” and that the judge “should feel free, it’s unnecessary to say, to deny” the request. He then went on to summarize their media strategy for the day. Brazil’s biggest nightly news program, “Jornal Nacional,” had just read their statement live on air:

The post Exclusive: Brazilian Judge in Car Wash Corruption Case Mocked Lula’s Defense and Secretly Directed Prosecutors’ Media Strategy During Trial appeared first on The Intercept.

Saudi Arabia May Execute Teenager for His Protests — Including When He Was 10

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman poses during a group picture ahead of Islamic Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday, June 1, 2019. Muslim leaders from some 57 nations gathered in Islam's holiest city of Mecca late Friday to discuss a breadth of critical issues ranging from a spike in tensions in the Persian Gulf, to Palestinian statehood, the plight of Rohingya refugees and the growing threat of Islamophobia. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of the Islamic Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on June 1, 2019.

Photo: Amr Nabil/AP

In 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept across the Middle East, demonstrations also kicked off in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Members of the kingdom’s repressed Shiite minority took to the streets, calling for equal rights and a fairer distribution of oil revenues. The protesters included a group of around 30 kids on bicycles. As a video released last week by CNN shows, those children were led by a smiling 10-year-old in flip-flops named Murtaja Qureiris.

“The people demand human rights!” the young boy can be seen shouting through a megaphone.

Here’s the problem: Demanding human rights in Saudi Arabia lands you in prison. Even if you’re a kid.

Three years later, in September 2014, 13-year-old Murtaja was arrested while on his way to neighboring Bahrain with his family.

“At the time,” reports CNN, “he was considered by lawyers and activists to be the youngest known political prisoner in Saudi Arabia.

Over the past four years, say human rights groups, this teenager has been subjected to torture and intimidation, as well as a spell in solitary confinement. He has been denied access to a lawyer while interrogators try to get him to confess to the trumped-up charges against him. These include “participating in anti-government protests, attending the funeral of his brother Ali Qureiris who was killed in a protest in 2011, joining a ‘terrorist organization,’ throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station, and firing at security forces,” according to Amnesty International.

Last week, we learned that Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 18-year-old Murtaja, who is being tried in an anti-terror court. CNN reports that the prosecutors want to “impose the harshest form of the death penalty, which may include crucifixion or dismemberment after execution.”

Got that? The unelected government of a close ally of the United States is planning on brutally executing an 18-year-old member of a minority group, for crimes allegedly committed when he was 10 years old.

Let me repeat: Ten. Years. Old.

We shouldn’t forget the person who is primarily responsible for this outrage: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS. Since his father installed him in power, the violent crushing of political dissent has escalated. According to the CIA, MBS ordered the horrific murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He is also behind the targeting of three Arab activists in Norway, Canada, and the United States.

Much has (rightly) been made of the crown prince’s shocking record on extrajudicial killings. But what of the growing number of judicially sanctioned killings inside of Saudi Arabia on his watch? The planned execution of Murtaja Qureiris may be the most horrendous act yet.

“There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest,” says Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty International.

The Gulf kingdom is one of the world’s top executioners and, according to Maalouf, Saudi authorities have “a chilling track record of using the death penalty as a weapon to crush political dissent and punish anti-government protesters — including children — from the country’s persecuted Shi’a minority.”

The majority of the country, and the ruling family, are from a strict school of Sunni Islam called Salafism. In April, 37 people were executed in a single day — the biggest mass execution in the kingdom since 2016 — and the vast majority of them were believed to be Shiites. Three of them, according to human rights group Reprieve, were “minors at the time of their alleged offences.” Such executions, as both Reprieve and Amnesty International have noted, are a brazen violation of international human rights law.

Another three Saudi Shiites — Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher — who were also below the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crimes, are still on death row and could be executed at anytime.

It isn’t just Shiites, either. MBS has also targeted Sunni clerics who have failed to fall into line. There have been reports that the belligerent and thin-skinned crown prince plans on executing three high-profile Saudi religious scholars — Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni, and Ali al-Omari — all of whom have been held on multiple charges of “terrorism.” 62-year-old Odah is famous in the Arab world for his relatively progressive views on Islam and homosexuality and his 2007 denunciation of Osama bin Laden. His actual “crime”? Tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf rival, the Emirate of Qatar. (Full disclosure: I host two TV shows for Qatar-funded Al Jazeera English.)

Supporters of MBS often try and argue that these executions are the product of decisions made in court, not in the royal palace. This is a laughable defense. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. There is no independent judiciary. As CNN reports, “The death penalty can only be enforced by order of King Salman or his authorized representative. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is frequently characterized as the King’s deputy.”

Forget MBS the reformer; meet MBS the executioner. The fact that he has been embraced closely by everyone from Donald Trump to Emmanuel Macron to Theresa May should be a source of shame for those of us living in the West. To quote former Obama-era National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor, MBS is “Kim Jong Un with oil money.”

The post Saudi Arabia May Execute Teenager for His Protests — Including When He Was 10 appeared first on The Intercept.

WATCH: Glenn Greenwald Explains the Political Earthquake in Brazil Caused by Our Ongoing Exposés

Last Sunday, the Intercept and the Intercept Brasil published a series of exposés that has created a major political earthquake in Brazil that has only grown and intensified throughout the week. In less than a week, the once-revered Justice Minister of President Bolsonaro’s government, Sergio Moro, now faces widespread calls to resign from the same large Brazilian media outlets that spent years transforming him into an untouchable icon of integrity and uncritically applauding his every move.

Even more grave, the improprieties revealed by our reporting have cast serious doubt on the validity of numerous guilty verdicts issued by Judge Moro and the anti-corruption task force, beginning – most importantly – with the conviction and imprisonment of former President Lula da Silva last year at exactly the time that he was the overwhelming front-runner to win the presidency in 2018. That conviction by Judge Moro, which we now know was the by-product of highly improper and unethical conduct, is now scheduled to be reviewed by the Supreme Court as early as next week.

The archive we received from our source is vast, and contains many more explosive stories yet to be reported. Just last night, we published another story exposing even more serious improprieties by Judge Moro, widely regarded as the anchor of legitimacy for the Bolsonaro government, that has led for more calls for him to resign. Because of the importance but also complexity of these issues for those outside of Brazil, we created a video explaining what this archive is about, what these revelations mean, and why the consequences of our reporting are so significant not only for Brazil but for the entire democratic world.

The post WATCH: Glenn Greenwald Explains the Political Earthquake in Brazil Caused by Our Ongoing Exposés appeared first on The Intercept.

Mike Pompeo Said Congress Doesn’t Need to Approve War With Iran. 2020 Democrats Aren’t Having It.

As the Trump administration ratchets up tensions with Iran, escalating fears that the United States is looking for a possible path to another war in the Middle East, several Democratic presidential contenders are standing firm in their rejection of the White House’s attempts to create a legal rationale for war. They were responding to comments Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made in a private meeting that suggested that the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, passed by Congress three days after 9/11 could provide a legal basis for a war with Iran. 

In interviews with The Intercept, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as well as spokespeople for Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said it would be illegal for the U.S. government to rely on a 2001 law that authorized military force against perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to go to war with Iran. 

Five other prominent Democratic senators, including 2016 vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia and Dick Durbin of Illinois, filed a bipartisan amendment on Thursday to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for the 2020 fiscal year to prohibit funds from being used for military operations against Iran without congressional approval. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also joined the Democrats.

Pompeo’s remarks were revealed by Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., early Thursday in a House Armed Services Committee meeting and confirmed to The Intercept by Gabbard, who was also present.

“We were all in that meeting with Pompeo where those statements were made,” Gabbard said.

The 2001 AUMF provided the president with authority to wage war against anyone who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the attacks “or harbored such organizations or persons.” During an April 10 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo claimed Iran has “very real” connections with al Qaeda. When asked by Paul whether the AUMF applies to Iran, Pompeo declined to say. The State Department did not return a request for comment.

Pompeo’s comments carried new urgency on Thursday, when the secretary of state said that Iran was behind the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, implicating the nation in the second set of attacks on tankers in the region in two months. Late Thursday night, U.S. Central Command released a video it says shows Iran removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers it’s suspected to have attacked on Thursday. The owner of that ship on Friday denied that it was damaged by mines, claiming instead that it was hit by “flying objects.” 

The Trump administration has already stoked fear of a potential conflict with Iran, withdrawing from the landmark Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May 2018. More recently, National Security Adviser John Bolton asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran.

Asked for her response to the suggestion that the AUMF might extend to Iran, Warren said Pompeo was “wrong.”

“If the administration doesn’t believe that they can withstand a debate, then they shouldn’t be aiming themselves toward war.”

“If the administration wants to go to war against Iran, then the Constitution requires them to come to Congress to ask for an authorization for the use of military force. This is Constitutional Law 101, that it is Congress, not the president, that declares war,” Warren, a former law professor, said. “We would have to have a debate on the floor of the Senate. And if the administration doesn’t believe that they can withstand a debate, then they shouldn’t be aiming themselves toward war.”

Asked if there was any way that the 2001 AUMF could be construed to extend to Iran, Warren said, “None, nope.”

Gabbard, for her part, said of Pompeo’s suggestion, “I completely disagree, 100% disagree. That’s one of the reasons why I have been so concerned about what this administration is doing. Because in their mind, they could unilaterally start a war with Iran, without congressional authorization, which would be unconstitutional and illegal.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she wasn’t familiar with Pompeo’s comments. Kristin Lynch, spokesperson for Booker, said his co-sponsorship of a Senate bill that would prohibit the U.S. from spending money on military intervention in Iran without congressional authorization “speaks for itself.” Booker does not believe the 2001 AUMF can be used to authorize war with Iran, Lynch added.

A spokesperson for Gillibrand, Evan Lukaske, said that the senator “has consistently and forcefully pushed for the repeal of the AUMF, an eighteen-year old authorization that has been stretched far past its original intent.” Gillbrand “believes Congress must do its job and exercise oversight of the executive branch, particularly with the current administration, and believes President Trump, and all presidents for that matter, should seek Congressional approval before engaging in proactive military action,” Lukaske said in a statement.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar have signed onto the bill but did not respond to a request for comment on Pompeo’s remarks. A spokesperson for Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he hadn’t heard about Pompeo’s comments.

The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., now has 25 co-sponsors, including Sanders and 10 others who backed the original bill. Every other Democratic senatorial presidential candidate has signed on to back the bill since mid-May. In response to news of Pompeo’s comments, Udall tweeted Thursday:

Gabbard, who has positioned herself as a pro-peace candidate but generally supports the global war on terror spurred by the 2001 AUMF, has not signed onto the House companion measure to the Udall bill, introduced in April by California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo. Gabbard said she’d want to read the bill, “but in theory, that’s exactly what we’re going for.” In its first 10 days, the Eshoo bill had only five co-sponsors; it now has 59, including Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, another presidential candidate. The remaining Democratic presidential candidates in the House, Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, have not signed on.

During a classified briefing in May, a senior intelligence official told members of Congress that there is no evidence that Al Qaeda has cooperated with Iran on the Gulf attacks, the Daily Beast reported. That information would undermine any attempts to establish grounds for military action against Iran under the current AUMF.

Democratic senators have been discussing possible updates to the AUMF during negotiations to reauthorize the NDAA.

While Gabbard has not signed onto the Eshoo bill, she said that during Wednesday’s Armed Services Committee markup of the NDAA, she included a provision to address the escalating situation with Iran. That measure “specifically said nothing in this bill can be misconstrued to authorize the use of military force against Iran. I also wanted the same language against Venezuela. So covering both of these countries where this administration is hyping up tensions, threatening the use of military force, and so on. That’s something that we’ve got to remain vigilant on,” Gabbard said.  

“Obviously our role is to exercise oversight over the administration. As you well know, executive branch has overstepped their authority time and again when it comes to the use of military force. The major check and balance we have is the power of the purse strings, which is where the National Defense Authorization Act comes into play, because it prohibits the use of funding to carry out these things. And it sets policy,” she said.

Gabbard said a “conclusion that found bipartisan support” during the markup was “putting forward a very explicit amendment that says the 2001 AUMF shall not be misconstrued as an authorization to use military force against Iran. Because as even [Rep.] Mac Thornberry said, it wouldn’t. This Iran thing has no correlation to Al Qaeda.” Gabbard said she’d also just reintroduced the No More Presidential Wars Resolution, which “seeks to get at the heart of this problem where Congress is not fulfilling its responsibility, the executive is overstepping its boundaries, and it makes it an impeachable offense for a president to unilaterally start a war without congressional authorization or declaration of war.”

The post Mike Pompeo Said Congress Doesn’t Need to Approve War With Iran. 2020 Democrats Aren’t Having It. appeared first on The Intercept.

Rep. Ro Khanna Calls for Investigation Into Brazil’s Prosecution of Lula

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., is calling on the Trump administration to investigate the case that imprisoned former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges, following The Intercept’s exposé that showed Judge Sérgio Moro plotted with prosecutors to convict Lula and prevent the Workers’ Party from returning to power.

“This reporting confirms what we knew all along — that Moro was a bad actor and part of a larger conspiracy to send Lula to jail,” Khanna told The Intercept in an emailed statement. “While [it’s] not for America to make a factual judgement on Lula’s innocence, this reporting shows Moro was not impartial and coordinated with the prosecutors. This violates all judicial norms and ethics. I hope the Trump administration supports a full investigation into this matter given Lula is still in jail and Moro is Bolsonaro’s justice minister.”

President Donald Trump has embraced Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s right-wing president who, like Trump, has a history of making bigoted, homophobic, and misogynistic statements and even paid a visit to the White House in March.

“They say he’s the Donald Trump of South America,” Trump said during a speech this past January. “Do you believe that? And he’s happy with that. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t like the country so much. But I like him.”

On Sunday, The Intercept and The Intercept Brasil published excerpts from a massive trove of secret documents, including private admissions of doubt from prosecutors about whether there was sufficient evidence to prove Lula’s guilt. The sweeping corruption probe, known as Operation Car Wash, stretches back five years and has resulted in hundreds of people being charged with hundreds of crimes.

Lula, who was elected president in 2002 and 2006, was indicted under the probe and found guilty in 2017 of corruption and money laundering, charges that were connected to accepting bribes from construction firms. He was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.

Lula’s imprisonment forced him out of the 2018 presidential race, which he was widely expected to win; this paved the way for Bolsonaro, who then appointed Moro as justice minister. According to the archive, the prosecution also worked on strategies to prevent a prison interview with Lula during the election out of fear it could help the Workers’ Party.

“That the same judge who found Lula guilty was then rewarded by Lula’s victorious opponent made even longtime supporters of the Car Wash corruption probe uncomfortable, due to the obvious perception (real or not) of a quid pro quo, and by the transformation of Moro, who long insisted he was apolitical, into a political official working for the most far-right president ever elected in the history of Brazil’s democracy,” our report said. “Those concerns heightened when Bolsonaro recently admitted that he had also promised to appoint Moro to a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court as soon as there was a vacancy.”

In light of The Intercept’s reporting, Moro is facing growing calls to step down from public office, including from the Brazilian Bar Association, which called for his suspension and for an investigation to be conducted.

The post Rep. Ro Khanna Calls for Investigation Into Brazil’s Prosecution of Lula appeared first on The Intercept.

Exclusive: Leaked Chats Between Brazilian Judge and Prosecutor Who Imprisoned Lula Reveal Prohibited Collaboration and Doubts Over Evidence

A large trove of documents furnished exclusively to The Intercept Brasil reveals serious ethical violations and legally prohibited collaboration between the judge and prosecutors who last year convicted and imprisoned former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges — a conviction that resulted in Lula being barred from the 2018 presidential election. These materials also contain evidence that the prosecution had serious doubts about whether there was sufficient evidence to establish Lula’s guilt.

The archive, provided to The Intercept by an anonymous source, includes years of internal files and private conversations from the prosecutorial team behind Brazil’s sprawling Operation Car Wash, an ongoing corruption investigation that has yielded dozens of major convictions, including those of top corporate executives and powerful politicians.

In the files, conversations between lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol and then-presiding Judge Sergio Moro reveal that Moro offered strategic advice to prosecutors and passed on tips for new avenues of investigation. With these actions, Moro grossly overstepped the ethical lines that define the role of a judge. In Brazil, as in the United States, judges are required to be impartial and neutral, and are barred from secretly collaborating with one side in a case.

Other chats in the archive raise fundamental questions about the quality of the charges that ultimately sent Lula to prison. He was accused of having received a beachfront triplex apartment from a contractor as a kickback for facilitating multimillion-dollar contracts with the state-controlled oil firm Petrobras. In group chats among members of the prosecutorial team just days before filing the indictment, Dallagnol expressed his increasing doubts over two key elements of the prosecution’s case: whether the triplex was in fact Lula’s and whether it had anything to do with Petrobras.

These two questions were critical to their ability to prosecute Lula. Without the Petrobras link, the task force running the Car Wash investigation would have no legal basis for prosecuting this case, as it would fall outside of their jurisdiction. Even more seriously, without proving that the triplex belonged to Lula, the case itself would fall apart, since Lula’s alleged receipt of the triplex was the key ingredient to prove he acted corruptly.

Operation Car Wash is one of the most consequential political forces in the history of Brazilian democracy and also one of the most controversial. It has taken down powerful actors once thought to be untouchable and revealed massive corruption schemes that sucked billions out of public coffers.

The probe, however, has also been accused of political bias, repeated violations of constitutional guarantees, and illegal leaks of information to the press. (A separate article published today by The Intercept reveals that the Car Wash prosecutors, who long insisted that they were apolitical and concerned solely with fighting corruption, were in fact internally plotting how to prevent the return to power by Lula and his Workers’ Party).

The successful prosecution of Lula rendered him ineligible to run in the 2018 presidential election at a time when all polls showed that the former president was the clear frontrunner. As a result, Operation Car Wash was scorned by Lula’s supporters, who considered it a politically motivated scheme, driven by right-wing ideologues masquerading as apolitical anti-corruption prosecutors, in order to prevent Lula from running for president and to destroy the Workers’ Party.

But on the Brazilian right, there was widespread popular support for the corruption probe, the team of prosecutors, and Moro. The yearslong corruption probe transformed Moro into a hero both in Brazil and around the world, a status that was only strengthened once he became the man who finally brought down Lula.

After the guilty verdict from Moro was quickly affirmed by an appellate court, Lula’s candidacy was barred by law. With Lula out of the running, the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro shot up in the polls and then handily won the presidency by defeating Lula’s chosen replacement, former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro then named Moro, the judge who had presided over the case against Lula, to be his justice minister. Jurists and scholars will continue to debate the role of Car Wash for decades, but these archives offer an unprecedented window into this crucial moment in recent Brazilian history.

View of a truck with a portrait of Brazilian judge Sergio Moro reading "Long live Lava Jato", referring to an anti-corrption operation, during a protest against Brazilian former president (2003-2011) Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva outside the Federal Police headquarters, where he is awaited to start his 12-year prison sentence in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil. Lula da Silva, the controversial frontrunner in Brazil's October presidential election, remained defiantly holed up Friday as a deadline for him to surrender and start a 12-year prison sentence for corruption loomed.

A truck with a portrait of Sergio Moro reading, “Long live Lava Jato (Car Wash),” from April 6, 2018.

Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

Sergio Moro Crosses the Line

Telegram messages between Sergio Moro and Deltan Dallagnol reveal that Moro repeatedly stepped far outside the permissible bounds of his position as a judge while working on Car Wash cases. Over the course of more than two years, Moro suggested to the prosecutor that his team change the sequence of who they would investigate; insisted on less downtime between raids; gave strategic advice and informal tips; provided the prosecutors with advance knowledge of his decisions; offered constructive criticism of prosecutorial filings; and even scolded Dallagnol as if the prosecutor worked for the judge. Such conduct is unethical for a judge, who is responsible for maintaining neutrality to guarantee a fair trial, and it violates the Judiciary’s Code of Ethics for Brazil.

In one illustrative chat, Moro, referring to new rounds of search warrants and interrogations, suggested to Dallagnol that it might be preferable to “reverse the order of the two planned [phases].”

Numerous other instances in this archive reveal Moro — then a judge, and now Bolsonaro’s justice minister — actively collaborating with the prosecutors to strengthen their case. After a month of silence from the Car Wash task force, Moro asked: “Hasn’t it been a long time without an operation?” In another instance, Moro said, “You cannot make that kind of mistake now” — a reference to what he considered to be an error by the Federal Police. “But think hard whether that’s a good idea… the facts would have to be serious,” he counseled after Dallagnol told him of a motion he planned to file. “What do you think of these crazy statements from the PT national board? Should we officially rebut?” he asked, using the plural — “we” — in response to criticisms of the Car Wash investigation by Lula’s Workers’ Party, showing that he viewed himself and the Car Wash prosecutors as united in the same cause.

As in the United States, Brazil’s criminal justice system employs the accusatory model, which requires separation between the accuser and judge. Under this model, the judge must analyze the allegations of both sides in an impartial, disinterested manner. But the chats between Moro and Dallagnol show that, when he was a judge, the current justice minister improperly interfered in the Car Wash task force’s work, acting informally as an aid and advisor to the prosecution. In secret, he was helping design and construct the very criminal case that he would then “neutrally” adjudicate.

Such coordination between the judge and the Public Prosecutor’s Office outside of official proceedings squarely contradicts the public narrative that Car Wash prosecutors, Moro, and their supporters have presented and vigorously defended over the years. Moro and Dallagnol have been accused of secret collaboration since the early days of Car Wash, but these suspicions — until now — were not backed by concrete evidence.

Another example of Moro crossing the line separating prosecutor and judge is in a conversation with Dallagnol on December 7, 2015, when he informally passed on a tip about Lula’s case to the prosecutors. “So. The following. Source informed me that the contact person is annoyed at having been asked to issue draft property transfer deeds for one of the ex-president’s children. Apparently the person would be willing to provide the information. I’m therefore passing it along. The source is serious,” wrote Moro.

“Thank you!! We’ll make contact,” Dallagnol promptly replied. Moro added, “And it would be dozens of properties.” Dallagnol later advised Moro that he called the source, but she would not talk: “I’m thinking of drafting a subpoena, based on apocryphal news,” the prosecutor said. While it is not entirely clear what this means, it appears that Dallagnol was floating the idea of inventing an anonymous complaint that could be used to compel the source to testify. Moro, rather than chastise the prosecutor or remain silent, appears to endorse the proposal: “Better to formalize then,” the judge replied.

Moro has publicly and vehemently denied on several occasions that he ever worked in partnership with the team of prosecutors. In a March 2016 speech, Moro denied these suspicions explicitly:

Let’s make something very clear. You hear a lot about Judge Moro’s investigative strategy. […] I do not have any investigative strategy at all. The people who investigate or who decide what to do and such is the Public Prosecutor and the [Federal] Police. The judge is reactive. We say that a judge should normally cultivate these passive virtues. And I even get irritated at times, I see somewhat unfounded criticism of my work, saying that I am a judge-investigator.

In his 2017 book, “The Fight Against Corruption,” Dallagnol wrote that Moro “always evaluated the Public Prosecutor’s requests in an impartial and technical manner.” Last year, in response to a complaint from Lula’s lawyers, Brazil’s prosecutor general — the presidentially-appointed chief prosecutor who runs the Car Wash investigation — wrote that Moro “remained impartial during the entire process” of Lula’s conviction.

Brazilian Federal Attorney Deltan Dallagnol listens, during the ceremony for the return of resources to Petrobras, which were recovered through cooperation and leniency agreements in connection with Lava Jato operation, in Curitiba, Brazil on December 07, 2017. Petrobras received 654 million reais (200 million dollars) from legal agreements related to Lava Jato operation, the largest corruption investigation in Brazil's history, the state-owned company reported. / AFP PHOTO / Heuler Andrey (Photo credit should read HEULER ANDREY/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazilian Federal Attorney Deltan Dallagnol listens, during a ceremony for the return of resources to Petrobras, which were recovered in connection with Lava Jato operation, in Curitiba, Brazil, on Dec. 7, 2017.

Photo: Heuler Andrey/AFP/Getty Images

Doubts, Misinterpretations, and a Triplex

Beyond Moro’s interjections, the documents obtained by The Intercept Brasil reveal that, while publicly boasting about the strength of the evidence against Lula, prosecutors were internally admitting major doubts. They also knew that their claimed jurisdictional entitlement to prosecute Lula was shaky at best, if not entirely baseless.

In the documents, Dallagnol, the Operation Car Wash lead prosecutor, expressed concerns regarding the two most important elements of the prosecution’s case. Their indictment accused Lula of receiving a beachfront triplex apartment from the construction firm Grupo OAS as a bribe in exchange for facilitating millions of dollars in contracts with Petrobras, but they lacked solid documentary evidence to prove that the apartment was Lula’s or that he ever facilitated any contracts. Without the apartment, there was no case, and without the Petrobras link, the case would fall out of their jurisdiction and into that of the São Paulo division of the Public Prosecutor’s office, which had argued that it, rather than Operation Car Wash prosecutors, had jurisdiction over the case against Lula.

“They will say that we are accusing based on newspaper articles and fragile evidence … so it’d be good if this item is wrapped up tight. Apart from this item, so far I am apprehensive about the connection between Petrobras and enrichment, and after they told me I am apprehensive about the apartment story,” wrote Dallagnol in a group Telegram chat with his colleagues on September 9, 2016, four days before filing their indictment against Lula. “These are points in which we have to have solid answers and on the tips of our tongues.”

None of Dallagnol’s subordinates responded to his messages in the materials examined for this article.

Prosecutors in São Paulo had publicly questioned the Petrobras connection in an official court filing, noting, “In 2009-2010 there was no talk of scandal at Petrobras. In 2005, when the presidential couple, in theory, began to pay installments on the property, there was no indication of an ‘oil scandal’.”

The Curitiba-based Car Wash team eventually prevailed over their São Paulo counterparts and were able to maintain the high-profile, politically explosive case in their jurisdiction. But private chats reveal that their argument was a bluff — they weren’t actually sure of the Petrobras link that was the key to maintaining their jurisdiction.

On Saturday night at 10:45 p.m., a day after expressing his original doubts, Dallagnol messaged the group again: “I’m so horny for this O GLOBO article from 2010. I’m going to kiss whichever one of you found this.” The article, headlined “Bancoop Case: Lula Couple’s Triplex Is Delayed,” was the first to publicly mention Lula owning an apartment in Guarujá, a coastal town in São Paulo state. The 645-word article, published years before the Car Wash investigation began, does not mention OAS or Petrobras and instead covers the bankruptcy of the construction cooperative behind the development and how it could negatively impact the delivery date of Lula’s new vacation apartment.

The article was submitted as evidence and, in his decision to convict Lula, Moro wrote that the O Globo article “is quite relevant from a probative point of view.” But Lula’s defense attorneys dispute that he was the owner of a triplex, claiming instead that he purchased a smaller, single level apartment on a lower floor, and the O Globo article presented no documentation proving otherwise.

Moreover, there is a small but telling inconsistency between the O Globo article and the claims of the prosecution regarding the triplex. The article itself puts Lula’s penthouse in Tower B, and even notes that Tower A is yet to be built at the time the article was written: “The second tower, if constructed according to the project blueprints, finalized in the early 2000s, may end part of Lula’s joy: the building will be in front of the president’s property, obstructing his ocean view at Guarujá.” But the prosecutors alleged that Lula owned the beachfront triplex in Tower A. Without noting this contradiction, Item 191 of the indictment cites the O Globo article: “This article explained that the then President LULA and [his wife] MARISA LETÍCIA would receive a triplex penthouse, with a view to the sea, in the said venture.” That is the apartment that would eventually be seized by authorities and that Lula would be convicted of receiving.

Car Wash prosecutors used the article as evidence that the triplex belonged to the presidential family, but indicted and convicted Lula on a triplex in a different building — demonstrating that the investigation was imprecise on the central point of their case: identifying the bribe that Lula allegedly received from the contractor.

When the indictment was revealed during a press conference on September 14, the triplex and its provenance as a bribe from OAS were the key pieces of evidence on the charges of passive corruption and money laundering. In a now infamous moment, Dallagnol presented a typo-laden PowerPoint presentation that showed “Lula” written in a blue bubble surrounded by 14 other bubbles containing everything from “Lula’s reaction” and “expressiveness” to “illicit enrichment” and “bribeocracy.” All arrows pointed back to Lula, whom they characterized as the mastermind behind a sprawling criminal enterprise. The presentation was widely spoofed and criticized by critics as evidence of the weakness of the Car Wash prosecutors’ case.

Two days later, Dallagnol messaged Moro and, in private, explained that they went to great lengths to characterize Lula as the “maximum leader” of the corruption scheme as a way to link the politician to the R$87 million (US$26.7 million, at the time) paid in bribes by OAS for contracts at two Petrobras refineries — a charge without material evidence, he admitted, but one that was essential so that the case could be tried under Moro’s jurisdiction in Curitiba.

“The indictment is based on a lot of indirect evidence of authorship, but it wouldn’t fit to say that in the indictment and in our communications we avoided that point,” Dallagnol wrote. “It was not understood that the long exposition on command of the scheme was necessary to impute corruption to the former president. A lot of people did not understand why we put him as the leader to gain 3,7MM in money laundering, when it was not for that, but to impute 87MM of corruption.”

Moro responded two days later: “Definitely, the criticisms of your presentation are disproportionate. Stand firm.” Less than a year later, the judge sentenced the former president to nine years and six months in prison. The ruling was quickly upheld unanimously by an appeals court and the sentence was extended to 12 years and one month. In an interview, the president of the appeals court characterized Moro’s decision as “just and impartial” before later admitting that he had not yet obtained access to the underlying evidence in the case. One of the three judges on the panel was an old friend and classmate of Moro’s.

Even Lula’s most vehement critics, including those who believe him to be corrupt, have expressed doubts about the strength of this particular conviction. Many have argued that it was chosen as the first case because it was simple enough to process quickly, in time to fulfill the real goal: to bar Lula from being re-elected.

Until now, most of the evidence necessary to evaluate the motives and internal beliefs of the Car Wash task force and Moro remained secret. Reporting on this archive now finally enables the public — in Brazil and internationally — to evaluate both the validity of Lula’s conviction and the propriety of those who worked so tirelessly to bring it about.

The Intercept contacted the offices of the Car Wash task force and Sergio Moro immediately upon publication and will update the stories with their comments if and when they provide them. Read the editors’ statement here.

The post Exclusive: Leaked Chats Between Brazilian Judge and Prosecutor Who Imprisoned Lula Reveal Prohibited Collaboration and Doubts Over Evidence appeared first on The Intercept.

Exclusive: Leaked Chats Between Brazilian Judge and Prosecutor Who Imprisoned Lula Reveal Prohibited Collaboration and Doubts Over Evidence

A large trove of documents furnished exclusively to The Intercept Brasil reveals serious ethical violations and legally prohibited collaboration between the judge and prosecutors who last year convicted and imprisoned former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges — a conviction that resulted in Lula being barred from the 2018 presidential election. These materials also contain evidence that the prosecution had serious doubts about whether there was sufficient evidence to establish Lula’s guilt.

The archive, provided to The Intercept by an anonymous source, includes years of internal files and private conversations from the prosecutorial team behind Brazil’s sprawling Operation Car Wash, an ongoing corruption investigation that has yielded dozens of major convictions, including those of top corporate executives and powerful politicians.

In the files, conversations between lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol and then-presiding Judge Sergio Moro reveal that Moro offered strategic advice to prosecutors and passed on tips for new avenues of investigation. With these actions, Moro grossly overstepped the ethical lines that define the role of a judge. In Brazil, as in the United States, judges are required to be impartial and neutral, and are barred from secretly collaborating with one side in a case.

Other chats in the archive raise fundamental questions about the quality of the charges that ultimately sent Lula to prison. He was accused of having received a beachfront triplex apartment from a contractor as a kickback for facilitating multimillion-dollar contracts with the state-controlled oil firm Petrobras. In group chats among members of the prosecutorial team just days before filing the indictment, Dallagnol expressed his increasing doubts over two key elements of the prosecution’s case: whether the triplex was in fact Lula’s and whether it had anything to do with Petrobras.

These two questions were critical to their ability to prosecute Lula. Without the Petrobras link, the task force running the Car Wash investigation would have no legal basis for prosecuting this case, as it would fall outside of their jurisdiction. Even more seriously, without proving that the triplex belonged to Lula, the case itself would fall apart, since Lula’s alleged receipt of the triplex was the key ingredient to prove he acted corruptly.

Operation Car Wash is one of the most consequential political forces in the history of Brazilian democracy and also one of the most controversial. It has taken down powerful actors once thought to be untouchable and revealed massive corruption schemes that sucked billions out of public coffers.

The probe, however, has also been accused of political bias, repeated violations of constitutional guarantees, and illegal leaks of information to the press. (A separate article published today by The Intercept reveals that the Car Wash prosecutors, who long insisted that they were apolitical and concerned solely with fighting corruption, were in fact internally plotting how to prevent the return to power by Lula and his Workers’ Party).

The successful prosecution of Lula rendered him ineligible to run in the 2018 presidential election at a time when all polls showed that the former president was the clear frontrunner. As a result, Operation Car Wash was scorned by Lula’s supporters, who considered it a politically motivated scheme, driven by right-wing ideologues masquerading as apolitical anti-corruption prosecutors, in order to prevent Lula from running for president and to destroy the Workers’ Party.

But on the Brazilian right, there was widespread popular support for the corruption probe, the team of prosecutors, and Moro. The yearslong corruption probe transformed Moro into a hero both in Brazil and around the world, a status that was only strengthened once he became the man who finally brought down Lula.

After the guilty verdict from Moro was quickly affirmed by an appellate court, Lula’s candidacy was barred by law. With Lula out of the running, the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro shot up in the polls and then handily won the presidency by defeating Lula’s chosen replacement, former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro then named Moro, the judge who had presided over the case against Lula, to be his justice minister. Jurists and scholars will continue to debate the role of Car Wash for decades, but these archives offer an unprecedented window into this crucial moment in recent Brazilian history.

View of a truck with a portrait of Brazilian judge Sergio Moro reading "Long live Lava Jato", referring to an anti-corrption operation, during a protest against Brazilian former president (2003-2011) Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva outside the Federal Police headquarters, where he is awaited to start his 12-year prison sentence in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil. Lula da Silva, the controversial frontrunner in Brazil's October presidential election, remained defiantly holed up Friday as a deadline for him to surrender and start a 12-year prison sentence for corruption loomed.

A truck with a portrait of Sergio Moro reading, “Long live Lava Jato (Car Wash),” from April 6, 2018.

Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images

Sergio Moro Crosses the Line

Telegram messages between Sergio Moro and Deltan Dallagnol reveal that Moro repeatedly stepped far outside the permissible bounds of his position as a judge while working on Car Wash cases. Over the course of more than two years, Moro suggested to the prosecutor that his team change the sequence of who they would investigate; insisted on less downtime between raids; gave strategic advice and informal tips; provided the prosecutors with advance knowledge of his decisions; offered constructive criticism of prosecutorial filings; and even scolded Dallagnol as if the prosecutor worked for the judge. Such conduct is unethical for a judge, who is responsible for maintaining neutrality to guarantee a fair trial, and it violates the Judiciary’s Code of Ethics for Brazil.

In one illustrative chat, Moro, referring to new rounds of search warrants and interrogations, suggested to Dallagnol that it might be preferable to “reverse the order of the two planned [phases].”

Numerous other instances in this archive reveal Moro — then a judge, and now Bolsonaro’s justice minister — actively collaborating with the prosecutors to strengthen their case. After a month of silence from the Car Wash task force, Moro asked: “Hasn’t it been a long time without an operation?” In another instance, Moro said, “You cannot make that kind of mistake now” — a reference to what he considered to be an error by the Federal Police. “But think hard whether that’s a good idea… the facts would have to be serious,” he counseled after Dallagnol told him of a motion he planned to file. “What do you think of these crazy statements from the PT national board? Should we officially rebut?” he asked, using the plural — “we” — in response to criticisms of the Car Wash investigation by Lula’s Workers’ Party, showing that he viewed himself and the Car Wash prosecutors as united in the same cause.

As in the United States, Brazil’s criminal justice system employs the accusatory model, which requires separation between the accuser and judge. Under this model, the judge must analyze the allegations of both sides in an impartial, disinterested manner. But the chats between Moro and Dallagnol show that, when he was a judge, the current justice minister improperly interfered in the Car Wash task force’s work, acting informally as an aid and advisor to the prosecution. In secret, he was helping design and construct the very criminal case that he would then “neutrally” adjudicate.

Such coordination between the judge and the Public Prosecutor’s Office outside of official proceedings squarely contradicts the public narrative that Car Wash prosecutors, Moro, and their supporters have presented and vigorously defended over the years. Moro and Dallagnol have been accused of secret collaboration since the early days of Car Wash, but these suspicions — until now — were not backed by concrete evidence.

Another example of Moro crossing the line separating prosecutor and judge is in a conversation with Dallagnol on December 7, 2015, when he informally passed on a tip about Lula’s case to the prosecutors. “So. The following. Source informed me that the contact person is annoyed at having been asked to issue draft property transfer deeds for one of the ex-president’s children. Apparently the person would be willing to provide the information. I’m therefore passing it along. The source is serious,” wrote Moro.

“Thank you!! We’ll make contact,” Dallagnol promptly replied. Moro added, “And it would be dozens of properties.” Dallagnol later advised Moro that he called the source, but she would not talk: “I’m thinking of drafting a subpoena, based on apocryphal news,” the prosecutor said. While it is not entirely clear what this means, it appears that Dallagnol was floating the idea of inventing an anonymous complaint that could be used to compel the source to testify. Moro, rather than chastise the prosecutor or remain silent, appears to endorse the proposal: “Better to formalize then,” the judge replied.

Moro has publicly and vehemently denied on several occasions that he ever worked in partnership with the team of prosecutors. In a March 2016 speech, Moro denied these suspicions explicitly:

Let’s make something very clear. You hear a lot about Judge Moro’s investigative strategy. […] I do not have any investigative strategy at all. The people who investigate or who decide what to do and such is the Public Prosecutor and the [Federal] Police. The judge is reactive. We say that a judge should normally cultivate these passive virtues. And I even get irritated at times, I see somewhat unfounded criticism of my work, saying that I am a judge-investigator.

In his 2017 book, “The Fight Against Corruption,” Dallagnol wrote that Moro “always evaluated the Public Prosecutor’s requests in an impartial and technical manner.” Last year, in response to a complaint from Lula’s lawyers, Brazil’s prosecutor general — the presidentially-appointed chief prosecutor who runs the Car Wash investigation — wrote that Moro “remained impartial during the entire process” of Lula’s conviction.

Brazilian Federal Attorney Deltan Dallagnol listens, during the ceremony for the return of resources to Petrobras, which were recovered through cooperation and leniency agreements in connection with Lava Jato operation, in Curitiba, Brazil on December 07, 2017. Petrobras received 654 million reais (200 million dollars) from legal agreements related to Lava Jato operation, the largest corruption investigation in Brazil's history, the state-owned company reported. / AFP PHOTO / Heuler Andrey (Photo credit should read HEULER ANDREY/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazilian Federal Attorney Deltan Dallagnol listens, during a ceremony for the return of resources to Petrobras, which were recovered in connection with Lava Jato operation, in Curitiba, Brazil, on Dec. 7, 2017.

Photo: Heuler Andrey/AFP/Getty Images

Doubts, Misinterpretations, and a Triplex

Beyond Moro’s interjections, the documents obtained by The Intercept Brasil reveal that, while publicly boasting about the strength of the evidence against Lula, prosecutors were internally admitting major doubts. They also knew that their claimed jurisdictional entitlement to prosecute Lula was shaky at best, if not entirely baseless.

In the documents, Dallagnol, the Operation Car Wash lead prosecutor, expressed concerns regarding the two most important elements of the prosecution’s case. Their indictment accused Lula of receiving a beachfront triplex apartment from the construction firm Grupo OAS as a bribe in exchange for facilitating millions of dollars in contracts with Petrobras, but they lacked solid documentary evidence to prove that the apartment was Lula’s or that he ever facilitated any contracts. Without the apartment, there was no case, and without the Petrobras link, the case would fall out of their jurisdiction and into that of the São Paulo division of the Public Prosecutor’s office, which had argued that it, rather than Operation Car Wash prosecutors, had jurisdiction over the case against Lula.

“They will say that we are accusing based on newspaper articles and fragile evidence … so it’d be good if this item is wrapped up tight. Apart from this item, so far I am apprehensive about the connection between Petrobras and enrichment, and after they told me I am apprehensive about the apartment story,” wrote Dallagnol in a group Telegram chat with his colleagues on September 9, 2016, four days before filing their indictment against Lula. “These are points in which we have to have solid answers and on the tips of our tongues.”

None of Dallagnol’s subordinates responded to his messages in the materials examined for this article.

Prosecutors in São Paulo had publicly questioned the Petrobras connection in an official court filing, noting, “In 2009-2010 there was no talk of scandal at Petrobras. In 2005, when the presidential couple, in theory, began to pay installments on the property, there was no indication of an ‘oil scandal’.”

The Curitiba-based Car Wash team eventually prevailed over their São Paulo counterparts and were able to maintain the high-profile, politically explosive case in their jurisdiction. But private chats reveal that their argument was a bluff — they weren’t actually sure of the Petrobras link that was the key to maintaining their jurisdiction.

On Saturday night at 10:45 p.m., a day after expressing his original doubts, Dallagnol messaged the group again: “I’m so horny for this O GLOBO article from 2010. I’m going to kiss whichever one of you found this.” The article, headlined “Bancoop Case: Lula Couple’s Triplex Is Delayed,” was the first to publicly mention Lula owning an apartment in Guarujá, a coastal town in São Paulo state. The 645-word article, published years before the Car Wash investigation began, does not mention OAS or Petrobras and instead covers the bankruptcy of the construction cooperative behind the development and how it could negatively impact the delivery date of Lula’s new vacation apartment.

The article was submitted as evidence and, in his decision to convict Lula, Moro wrote that the O Globo article “is quite relevant from a probative point of view.” But Lula’s defense attorneys dispute that he was the owner of a triplex, claiming instead that he purchased a smaller, single level apartment on a lower floor, and the O Globo article presented no documentation proving otherwise.

Moreover, there is a small but telling inconsistency between the O Globo article and the claims of the prosecution regarding the triplex. The article itself puts Lula’s penthouse in Tower B, and even notes that Tower A is yet to be built at the time the article was written: “The second tower, if constructed according to the project blueprints, finalized in the early 2000s, may end part of Lula’s joy: the building will be in front of the president’s property, obstructing his ocean view at Guarujá.” But the prosecutors alleged that Lula owned the beachfront triplex in Tower A. Without noting this contradiction, Item 191 of the indictment cites the O Globo article: “This article explained that the then President LULA and [his wife] MARISA LETÍCIA would receive a triplex penthouse, with a view to the sea, in the said venture.” That is the apartment that would eventually be seized by authorities and that Lula would be convicted of receiving.

Car Wash prosecutors used the article as evidence that the triplex belonged to the presidential family, but indicted and convicted Lula on a triplex in a different building — demonstrating that the investigation was imprecise on the central point of their case: identifying the bribe that Lula allegedly received from the contractor.

When the indictment was revealed during a press conference on September 14, the triplex and its provenance as a bribe from OAS were the key pieces of evidence on the charges of passive corruption and money laundering. In a now infamous moment, Dallagnol presented a typo-laden PowerPoint presentation that showed “Lula” written in a blue bubble surrounded by 14 other bubbles containing everything from “Lula’s reaction” and “expressiveness” to “illicit enrichment” and “bribeocracy.” All arrows pointed back to Lula, whom they characterized as the mastermind behind a sprawling criminal enterprise. The presentation was widely spoofed and criticized by critics as evidence of the weakness of the Car Wash prosecutors’ case.

Two days later, Dallagnol messaged Moro and, in private, explained that they went to great lengths to characterize Lula as the “maximum leader” of the corruption scheme as a way to link the politician to the R$87 million (US$26.7 million, at the time) paid in bribes by OAS for contracts at two Petrobras refineries — a charge without material evidence, he admitted, but one that was essential so that the case could be tried under Moro’s jurisdiction in Curitiba.

“The indictment is based on a lot of indirect evidence of authorship, but it wouldn’t fit to say that in the indictment and in our communications we avoided that point,” Dallagnol wrote. “It was not understood that the long exposition on command of the scheme was necessary to impute corruption to the former president. A lot of people did not understand why we put him as the leader to gain 3,7MM in money laundering, when it was not for that, but to impute 87MM of corruption.”

Moro responded two days later: “Definitely, the criticisms of your presentation are disproportionate. Stand firm.” Less than a year later, the judge sentenced the former president to nine years and six months in prison. The ruling was quickly upheld unanimously by an appeals court and the sentence was extended to 12 years and one month. In an interview, the president of the appeals court characterized Moro’s decision as “just and impartial” before later admitting that he had not yet obtained access to the underlying evidence in the case. One of the three judges on the panel was an old friend and classmate of Moro’s.

Even Lula’s most vehement critics, including those who believe him to be corrupt, have expressed doubts about the strength of this particular conviction. Many have argued that it was chosen as the first case because it was simple enough to process quickly, in time to fulfill the real goal: to bar Lula from being re-elected.

Until now, most of the evidence necessary to evaluate the motives and internal beliefs of the Car Wash task force and Moro remained secret. Reporting on this archive now finally enables the public — in Brazil and internationally — to evaluate both the validity of Lula’s conviction and the propriety of those who worked so tirelessly to bring it about.

The Intercept contacted the offices of the Car Wash task force and Sergio Moro immediately upon publication and will update the stories with their comments if and when they provide them. Read the editors’ statement here.

The post Exclusive: Leaked Chats Between Brazilian Judge and Prosecutor Who Imprisoned Lula Reveal Prohibited Collaboration and Doubts Over Evidence appeared first on The Intercept.

Exclusive: Brazil’s Top Prosecutors Who Indicted Lula Schemed in Secret Messages to Prevent His Party From Winning 2018 Election

An enormous trove of secret documents reveals that Brazil’s most powerful prosecutors, who have spent years insisting they are apolitical, instead plotted to prevent the Workers’ Party (PT) from winning the 2018 presidential election by blocking or weakening a pre-election interview with former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva with the explicit purpose of affecting the outcome of the election.

The massive archive, provided exclusively to The Intercept, shows multiple examples of politicized abuse of prosecutorial powers by those who led the country’s sweeping Operation Car Wash corruption probe since 2014. It also reveals a long-denied political and ideological agenda. One glaring example occurred 10 days before the first round of presidential voting last year, when a Supreme Court justice granted a petition from the country’s largest newspaper, Folha de São Paulo, to interview Lula, who was in prison on corruption charges brought by the Car Wash task force.

Immediately upon learning of that decision on September 28, 2018, the team of prosecutors who handled Lula’s corruption case — who spent years vehemently denying that they were driven by political motives of any kind — began discussing in a private Telegram chat group how to block, subvert, or undermine the Supreme Court decision. This was based on their expressed fear that the decision would help the PT — Lula’s party — win the election. Based on their stated desire to prevent the PT’s return to power, they spent hours debating strategies to prevent or dilute the political impact of Lula’s interview.

The Car Wash prosecutors explicitly said that their motive in stopping Lula’s interview was to prevent the PT from winning. One of the prosecutors, Laura Tessler, exclaimed upon learning of the decision, “What a joke!” and then explained the urgency of preventing or undermining the decision. “A press conference before the second round of voting could help elect Haddad,” she wrote in the chat group, referring to the PT’s candidate Fernando Haddad. The chief of the prosecutor task force, Deltan Dallagnol, conducted a separate conservation with a longtime confidant, also a prosecutor, and they agreed that they would “pray” together that the events of that day would not usher in the PT’s return to power.

Many in Brazil have long accused the Car Wash prosecutors, as well as the judge who adjudicated the corruption cases, Sérgio Moro (now the country’s justice minister under President Jair Bolsonaro), of being driven by ideological and political motives. Moro and the Car Wash team have repeatedly denied these accusations, insisting that their only consideration was to expose and punish political corruption irrespective of party or political faction.

But this new archive of documents — some of which are being published today in other articles by The Intercept and The Intercept Brasil — casts considerable doubt on the denials of the prosecutors. Indeed, many of these documents show improper and unethical plotting between Dallagnol and Moro on how to best structure the corruption case against Lula — although Moro was legally required to judge the case as a neutral arbiter. Other documents include private admissions among the prosecutors that the evidence proving Lula’s guilt was lacking. Overall, the documents depict a task force of prosecutors seemingly intent on exploiting its legal powers for blatantly political ends, led by its goal of preventing a return to power of the Workers’ Party generally, and Lula specifically.

Sergio Moro, Brazil's minister of Justice, speaks during a news conference in Brasilia, Brazil, on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Moro announced tougher measures to overhaul crime. Photographer: Andre Coelho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sérgio Moro, Brazil’s minister of justice, speaks at a news conference on Feb. 4, 2019, in Brasília, Brazil, where he announced tougher measures to overhaul crime.

Photo: Andre Coelho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The secrets unveiled by these documents are crucial for the public to know because the massive Car Wash corruption probe, which has swept through Brazil for the last five years, has been one of the most consequential events in the history of the world’s fifth-most populous country — not just legally but also politically.

Until now, both the Car Wash task force and Moro have been heralded around the world with honors, prizes, and media praise. But this new archive of documents shines substantial light on previously unreported motives, actions, and often deceitful maneuvering by these powerful actors.

While the Car Wash team of prosecutors has imprisoned a wide range of powerful politicians and billionaires, by far their most significant accomplishment was the 2018 imprisonment of Lula. At the time of Lula’s conviction, all polls showed that the former president — who had twice been elected by large margins, in 2002 and then again in 2006, and left office with a 87 percent approval rate — was the overwhelming frontrunner to once again win the presidency in 2018.

But Lula’s criminal conviction last year, once it was quickly affirmed by an appellate court, rendered him ineligible to run for the presidency, clearing the way for Bolsonaro, the far-right candidate, to win against Lula’s chosen successor, Haddad, the former São Paulo mayor. Supporters of the PT and many others in Brazil have long insisted that these prosecutors, while masquerading as apolitical and non-ideological actors whose only agenda was fighting corruption, were in fact right-wing ideologues whose overriding mission was to destroy the PT and prevent Lula’s return to power in the 2018 election.

These documents lend obvious credibility to those accusations. They show extensive plotting in secret to block and undermine the September 28 judicial order from Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, which authorized one of the country’s most prominent reporters, Folha’s Mônica Bergamo, to interview Lula in prison. Lewandowski’s decision was expressly grounded in the right of a free press, which he said entitled the newspaper to speak to Lula and report on his perspectives.

In his decision, Lewandowski also explained that the arguments that had been used all year to prevent a prison interview with Lula — namely, “security fears“ and the need to keep prisoners silent — were blatantly invalid given the numerous other prison interviews “permitted for prisoners condemned of crimes such as trafficking, murder and international organized crime.” The ruling also noted that Lula was neither in a maximum-security prison nor under a specially restrictive prison regime, further eroding the rationale for a ban on interviewing him.

Up until that point, Lula — widely regarded as one of the most effective and charismatic political communicators in the democratic world — had been held incommunicado, prevented from speaking to the public about the election. Any pre-election interview of Lula, in which he could have offered his views on Bolsonaro and the other candidates, including the PT’s Haddad, would have commanded massive media attention and likely influenced a decisive block of voters who, to this day, remain highly loyal to the former president (which is why Lula, even once he was imprisoned, remained the poll frontrunner).

The Car Wash prosecutors learned of the judicial decision authorizing Folha’s pre-election prison interview with Lula when an article about it was posted in their encrypted Telegram chat group. The panic among them was immediate. They repeatedly worried that the interview, to be conducted so close to the first round of voting, would help the PT’s Haddad win the presidential election. Based explicitly on that fear, the Car Wash prosecutors spent the day working feverishly to develop strategies to either overturn the ruling, delay Lula’s interview until after the election, or ensure that it was structured so as to minimize its political impact and its ability to help the PT win.

Reacting to the decision, Tessler, one of the prosecutors, exclaimed: “What a joke!!! Revolting!!! There he goes hold a rally in prison. A true circus. After Mônica Bergamo, based on the principle of equal treatment, I’m sure many other journalists will also be coming … and we’re left here, made to act like clowns with a supreme court like that …” Another prosecutor, Athayde Ribeiro Costa, responded to the decision with one word and numerous exclamation marks: “Mafiosos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The prosecutors, according to the time stamps on their chats, spent nearly a full day inventing strategies for how to prevent the Lula interview from taking place before the election or at least dilute its impact — from speculating whether a press conference would be less effective than a one-on-one interview, or whether they should petition to allow all other prisoners to be interviewed to distract attention from Lula. Tessler then made clear why these prosecutors were so deeply upset that the public could be allowed to hear from the former president so soon before the election: “Who knows … but an interview before the second round of voting could help elect Haddad.”

Brazilian Deltan Dallagnol, attorney of the Federal Public Ministry, speaks during an interview in Curitiba, Brazil on January 26, 2017. Dallagnol, in charge of Petrobras' multimillionaire bribery case, said Thursday that the denunciation of managers of Brazilian company Odebrecht will duplicate the number of people under investigation. / AFP / Heuler Andrey / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY DAMIAN WROCLAVSKY (Photo credit should read HEULER ANDREY/AFP/Getty Images)

Deltan Dallagnol, attorney of the Federal Public Ministry, during an interview in Curitiba, Brazil, on Jan. 26, 2017.

Photo: Heuler Andrey/AFP/Getty Images

While these chats were taking place within the Car Wash chat group, Deltan Dallagnol, the task force’s chief, was also having his own side conversation with a close confidant, a prosecutor who does not work on the Car Wash task force. They both expressly agreed that the chief objective was preventing the return of the PT to power, and the chief prosecutor — who often boasts of his religious piety — agreed that they would “pray” that this did not happen:

These admissions of the prosecutors’ true concerns — that a Lula interview could “elect Haddad” and usher in a “return of PT” to power — were hardly isolated confessions. To the contrary, the entire discussion, held over many hours, reads far less like a meeting of neutral prosecutors than a war-room session of anti-PT political operatives and strategists, focused on the goal of determining the most effective way to prevent or minimize the political impact of Lula’s interview.

Athayde Ribeiro Costa, for instance, cynically suggested that the omission of any date in Lewandowski’s decision could allow the Federal Police to purposely schedule the interview for after the election while pretending to comply with the order: “There’s no date. So the Federal Police could just schedule this for after the election, and we’ll still be in compliance with the decision.”

Another prosecutor, Januário Paludo, proposed a series of actions designed to prevent or minimize the Lula interview: “Plan A: we could enter an appeal on the Supreme Court itself, zero probability [of success]. Plan B: open it up for everybody to interview him on the same day. It’ll be chaotic but reduces the likelihood that the interview is directed.”

At no point did Dallagnol, who actively participated in the discussion throughout the day, or any other Car Wash prosecutor, suggest that it was improper for such political considerations to drive prosecutorial strategizing. Indeed, this Telegram chat group, which was used by its participants for many months, suggests that political considerations of this kind were routinely incorporated into the task force’s decision-making process.

The prosecutors lamented among themselves that they were barred from appealing the decision because an appeal in the name of the task force would make them look too political and would create the public perception that their intentions were to silence Lula and prevent him from helping the PT win — which, as these documents reveal, was indeed their actual motive. But later in the day, they learned that a right-wing party, called Novo (meaning “New”), had appealed the decision, and that the authorization to interview Lula was stayed by the court. They boisterously celebrated this news by, among other things, mocking the conflicts that were likely to arise within the Supreme Court (STF) and heaping praise on those responsible for trying to stop the interview:

Paludo added, ironically, that “we should thank our Prosecutors’ Office: the Novo Party!” meaning that this right-wing political party, which was also contesting the 2018 election, had performed what the task force themselves wanted to achieve by preventing Lula from being heard.

The appeal from that party resulted in a judicial stay of Lewandowski’s interview authorization. As a result, no pre-election interview with Lula was permitted and he was thus never heard from prior to the voting. Only once the election was concluded and Bolsonaro won did the Supreme Court begin authorizing media outlets to interview Lula in prison. Last month, Bergamo of Folha was permitted to interview Lula jointly with El País Brasil, and shortly thereafter, Lewandowski granted The Intercept Brasil’s petition to interview Lula alone, the video and transcript of which were published by The Intercept.

Once Bolsonaro was elected president, he quickly offered Moro — whose corruption ruling had resulted in Lula’s candidacy being barred — a newly created and unprecedentedly powerful position as what is now called the “super justice minister,” designed to reflect the massive powers vested in Moro.

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That the same judge who found Lula guilty was then rewarded by Lula’s victorious opponent made even longtime supporters of the Car Wash corruption probe uncomfortable, due to the obvious perception (real or not) of a quid pro quo, and by the transformation of Moro, who long insisted he was apolitical, into a political official working for the most far-right president ever elected in the history of Brazil’s democracy. Those concerns heightened when Bolsonaro recently admitted that he had also promised to appoint Moro to a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court as soon as there was a vacancy.

Now that the actual conversations and actions of the Car Wash team and of Moro can be revealed and seen, the public — both in Brazil and internationally — will finally have the opportunity to evaluate whether their longtime denials of being politically motivated were ever true.

These September 28 discussions are just the start of reporting by The Intercept and The Intercept Brasil on this archive.

The post Exclusive: Brazil’s Top Prosecutors Who Indicted Lula Schemed in Secret Messages to Prevent His Party From Winning 2018 Election appeared first on The Intercept.

How and Why The Intercept Is Reporting on a Vast Trove of Materials About Brazil’s Operation Car Wash and Justice Minister Sergio Moro

The Intercept Brasil today published three explosive exposés showing highly controversial, politicized, and legally dubious internal discussions and secret actions by the Operation Car Wash anti-corruption task force of prosecutors, led by the chief prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, along with then-Judge Sergio Moro, now the powerful and internationally celebrated justice minister for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

These stories are based on a massive archive of previously undisclosed materials — including private chats, audio recordings, videos, photos, court proceedings, and other documentation — provided to us by an anonymous source. They reveal serious wrongdoing, unethical behavior, and systematic deceit about which the public, both in Brazil and internationally, has the right to know.

These three articles were published today in The Intercept Brasil in Portuguese, and we have synthesized them into two English-language articles for The Intercept. Given the size and global influence of Brazil under the new Bolsonaro government, these stories are of great significance to an international audience.

This is 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; Moro’s actions when he was a judge and those of the prosecutor Dallagnol; and the conduct of numerous individuals who continue to wield great political and economic power both inside Brazil and in other countries.

Beyond the inherent political, economic, and environmental importance of Brazil under Bolsonaro, the significance of these revelations arises from the incomparably consequential actions of the yearslong Car Wash corruption probe. That sweeping scandal implicated numerous leading political figures, oligarchs, Bolsonaro’s predecessor as president, and even foreign leaders in corruption prosecutions.

Most importantly, Car Wash was the investigative saga that led to the imprisonment of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last year. Lula’s conviction by Moro, once it was quickly affirmed by an appellate court, rendered him ineligible to run for president at a time when all polls showed that Lula — who was twice elected president by large margins in 2002 and in 2006 before being term-limited out of office in 2010 with an 87 percent approval rating — was the frontrunner in the 2018 presidential race. Lula’s exclusion from the election, based on Moro’s finding of guilt, was a key episode that paved the way for Bolsonaro’s election victory.

Perhaps most remarkably, after Bolsonaro won the presidency, he created a new position of unprecedented authority, referred to by Brazilians as “super justice minister,” to oversee an agency with consolidated powers over law enforcement, surveillance, and investigation previously interspersed among multiple ministries. Bolsonaro created that position for the benefit of the very judge who found Lula guilty, Sergio Moro, and it is the position Moro now occupies. In other words, Moro now wields immense police and surveillance powers in Brazil — courtesy of a president who was elected only after Moro, while he was as judge, rendered Bolsonaro’s key adversary ineligible to run against him.

The Car Wash prosecutors and Moro have been highly controversial in Brazil and internationally — heralded by many as anti-corruption heroes and accused by others of being clandestine right-wing ideologues masquerading as apolitical law enforcers. Their critics have insisted that they have abused and exploited their law enforcement powers with the politicized goal of preventing Lula from returning to the presidency and destroying his leftist Workers’ Party, or the PT. Moro and the prosecutors have, with equal vehemence, denied that they have any political allegiances or objectives and have said they are simply trying to cleanse Brazil of corruption.

But, until now, the Car Wash prosecutors and Moro have carried out their work largely in secret, preventing the public from evaluating the validity of the accusations against them and the truth of their denials. That’s what makes this new archive so journalistically valuable: For the first time, the public will learn what these judges and prosecutors were saying and doing when they thought nobody was listening.

Today’s articles show, among other things, that the Car Wash prosecutors spoke openly of their desire to prevent the PT from winning the election and took steps to carry out that agenda, and that Moro secretly and unethically collaborated with the Car Wash prosecutors to help design the case against Lula despite serious internal doubts about the evidence supporting the accusations, only for him to then pretend to be its neutral adjudicator.

The Intercept’s only role in obtaining these materials was to receive them from our source, who contacted us many weeks ago (long before the recently alleged hacking of Moro’s telephone) and informed us that they had already obtained the full set of materials and was eager to provide them to journalists.

Informing the public of matters in the public interest and exposing wrongdoing was our guiding principle in doing this initial reporting on the archive, and it will continue to be our guiding principle as we report further on the large number of materials we have been provided.

The sheer volume of materials in this archive, as well as the fact that many documents include private conversations among public officials, requires us to make journalistic decisions about which documents should be reported on and published, and which documents should be withheld.

When making these judgments, we employ the standard used by journalists in democracies around the world: namely, that material revealing wrongdoing or deceit by powerful actors should be reported, but information that is purely private in nature and whose disclosure may infringe upon legitimate privacy interests or other social values should be withheld.

Indeed, in our reporting on this material, we are guided by the same rationale that led much of Brazilian society — including many journalists, commentators, and activists — to praise the disclosure in 2016 by Moro and various media outlets of the private telephone calls between Lula and former President Dilma Rousseff, in which the two leaders discussed the possibility of Lula becoming a minister in Dilma’s government. Disclosure of those private calls was crucial in turning public opinion against the PT, helping to lay the groundwork for Dilma’s 2016 impeachment and Lula’s 2018 imprisonment. The principle invoked to justify that disclosure was the same one we are adhering to in our reporting on these materials: that a democracy is healthier when significant actions undertaken in secret by powerful figures are revealed to the public.

But unlike those disclosures by Moro and various media outlets of the private conversations between Lula and Dilma — which included not only matters whose disclosures were in the public interest, but also private communications of Lula that had no public relevance and that many argued were released with the intention of personally embarrassing Lula — The Intercept has resolved to withhold any private communications, audio recordings, videos, or other materials relating to Moro, Dallagnol, or any other parties that are purely private in nature and thus unrelated to matters of public interest.

We have taken measures to secure the archive and all of its component materials outside of Brazil, so that numerous journalists have access to it, ensuring that no authorities in any country will have the ability to prevent reporting based on these materials. We intend to report on and publish stories based on the archive as expeditiously as possible in accordance with our high standards of factual accuracy and journalistic responsibility.

Consistent with journalistic practice in countries where the press operates under the threat of censorship and prior restraint orders, as has been the situation recently in Bolsonaro-led Brazil, we did not seek comment from the powerful legal officials mentioned in these stories prior to publication because we did not want to give them advance notice of this reporting, and because the documents speak for themselves. We contacted them immediately upon publication and will update the stories with their comments if and when they provide them.

Given the immense power wielded by these actors, and the secrecy under which they have — until now — been able to operate, transparency is crucial for Brazil and the international community to have a clear understanding of what they have really done. A free press exists to shine a light on what the most powerful figures in society do in the dark.

The post How and Why The Intercept Is Reporting on a Vast Trove of Materials About Brazil’s Operation Car Wash and Justice Minister Sergio Moro appeared first on The Intercept.

Amid Spike in Migrants Crossing the Mediterranean, Europe Is Still Delaying Rescues

As summer weather warms the Mediterranean, the number of boats bearing migrants that are caught in distress has spiked, according to groups involved in running search and rescue operations there. Advocates say that European policies aimed at limiting the number of migrants reaching their shores are in fact making the route more deadly.

More migrants than usual have been leaving Libya for southern Europe in small crafts in the last month and falling into danger along the way, according to Haidi Sadik of Sea-Watch, a nonprofit that does search and rescue.

“Our civil reconnaissance aircraft called Moonbird has been flying missions throughout the year, including in May, and has seen a significant increase in the number of boats in distress from the air,” said Sadik.

“We’ve definitely also seen an increase over the last few weeks,” said Maurice Stierl, who helped found Alarm Phone, an activist collective that runs an emergency hotline for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean.

According to the Missing Migrants Project, at least 107 migrants died in May 2019 crossing the Mediterranean, up from 60 in April. And though far fewer migrants overall compared to this time last year are making the trip, a greater portion of those who do attempt the crossing are dying.

In the first six months of 2018, 791 of the 70,531 people who attempted the Mediterranean crossing to Europe — 1.1 percent — died. Since January 2019, 35,122 people have attempted the crossing, and 543 have died — 1.5 percent overall, per the Missing Migrants Project.

Another factor in the sudden uptick in crossing attempts is the recent increase of violence in Libya, the country through which thousands of migrants fleeing violence and poverty have passed on their way to Europe. Last month, Amnesty International voiced concerns that the lives of hundreds of migrants and refugees in detention centers in Libya were under imminent threat as fighting between armed militias in the area drew closer.

But Sam Turner, Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission for Libya, says the increased death rate in the Mediterranean is of particular note. “That’s a really key point in terms of challenging the narrative that the actions taken to prevent people from crossing the central Mediterranean … [are] leading to fewer deaths,” he told The Intercept. About 1 in 13 migrants making the crossing in the central Mediterranean region in the first five months of this year died, says Turner; last year for the same period, the number was 1 in 58.

Meanwhile, according to data compiled by Matteo Villa, a researcher at the think tank Italian Institute for International Political Studies, the number of migrants returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard or others increased nearly tenfold from April to May, with an estimated 1,224 migrants being returned to the war-torn country in May, compared to 130 the month before. This is the greatest number of people returned to Libya since July 2018.

On Monday, two human rights lawyers filed a 244-page complaint with the International Criminal Court, or ICC, accusing European Union governments of knowingly sending thousands of migrants to their deaths in implementing their deterrence-based migration policies.

Omer Shatz, one of the lawyers who co-authored the request for the case to be taken on by the ICC, said that there used to be four major actors in the Mediterranean dealing with migrants crossing in boats: European governments, NGOs, commercial vessels, and the Libyan Coast Guard.

Commercial vessels, which once rescued migrants from the water, now avoid doing so to evade being implicated in an increasingly politicized act. “You can guarantee that you will end up in a political standoff without somewhere to disembark these people despite the fact that you have simply engaged in a humanitarian act,” said Turner.

NGOs, according to the ICC complaint, became critical actors in the Mediterranean after the EU’s 2014 decision to decrease its search and rescue operations. Yet “EU and Italian actors launched a broad political persecution against rescue NGOs, which includes intimidation, defamation, harassment, and formal criminalization,” the complaint reads. As The Intercept has reported, rescue ships have been seized and volunteers arrested.

With the support of the EU, last year Libya established a search and rescue region beyond its territorial waters, expanding the bounds of where the country coordinates and executes search and rescue operations. As the EU has scaled down its involvement, the principal actor on these waters has become the Libyan Coast Guard, said Shatz.

The Libyan Coast Guard does save lives every day, says Turner, but they can’t keep up with the number of attempted crossings, and the people they do save are sent back to dangerous and deadly conditions. (Libyan Coast Guard officers have also been accused of abuse themselves.) “Any rescue conducted by the Libyan Coast Guard results in a de facto forced return; the same place they were fleeing is the place they’re taken back to,” says Turner.

According to an Alarm Phone report published May 21, European authorities have refrained from assisting certain groups of migrants in distress in an apparent attempt to defer search and rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard. “Over the last two months … we had to witness several severe human rights violations at sea, including forms of push-back, refoulement, and non-assistance,” the report reads.

Alarm Phone’s Stierl added that migrants seem to be changing their tactics of survival in response to the policies. “They only call when they’ve gotten further into European search and rescue zones,” he said.

Alarm Phone shared an edited portion of a recent entry in its log book with The Intercept that detailed one such event. On May 29, according to the book, the hotline made contact via satellite phone with a boat carrying about 100 people.

The Alarm Phone entry for 1:20 a.m. on May 30 reads:

Talked with the boat again – again we cannot promise when coastguards are coming. He says: “It is so fucking inhumane what they are doing with us. We are here in the sea for more than a day now. They came with airplanes helicopters and everything. They know where we are and they just wait for the Libyans to come tomorrow to pick our corpses. Those who will still be alive will maybe then also go into the water because they want rather to die than to go back to Libya. Why can’t they let any fisher boat save us and then at least to avoid people to die. They can bring us to whatever shitty prison. But this situation here is so inhumane, you cannot imagine how we suffer.” We tell him that we will stay with them until the end, whatever happens. We promise that we call the coastguards and inform the public to raise pressure. He thanks us for being with them.

The group, according to Alarm Phone, were ultimately rescued by the Italian Navy, which means they became among the few these days to head for an Italian port. But the rescue took too long, Alarm Phone maintains.

“The @ItalianNavy vessel P490 had monitored the boat in distress yesterday already & could have rescued them nearly a day ago. This act of #non-assistance risked the lives of 90 people,” wrote Alarm Phone on Twitter.

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