Journalist Amaury Ribeiro Jr. has gained a certain notoriety for the neologism «privataria» — a mixture of «privateering», «piracy», and «privatizations» — as well as for his insistence
- that the privatization of telecoms and other types of state-owned firms during the 1990s was awash in improprieties, and
- that a politicized justice system has shielded the culprits in such cases.
I confess to having read the journalist’s first book without coming away with the urge to shout «cadeia neles»! — «arrest the bums» — with regard to such central figures as José Serra, his daughter and his son-in-law.
These figures dismiss the book as «trash» and reportedly have no comment on any of the specifics of its content. The daughter is partner in a successful e-commerce operation.
On the other hand, the double standard followed by press coverage of these events is undeniable.
In the meantime, let us post the following in the random notes section for now and see where it goes.
In any event, the newsmaker interviewer provides an interesting look at a hard-boiled Brazilian investigative reporter — Amaury survived a shooting not long before he took on the privatization case — in action.
During the week following the muncipal elections, in which Fernando Haddad of the PT defeated the PSDB’s José Serra in São Paulo, strange things began happening to prize-winning reporter Amaury Ribeiro Jr., author of the book [The Privateering of the Toucans] a best seller that sold 150,000 copies.
In Brazil, 150,000 copies is a blockbuster for prose nonfiction.
First, Amaury received a telephone call from a Guarulhos man who promised to supply documents relating to the São Paulo police Operation Parasite, which looked into companies committing fraud in the health sector.
A meeting was set up, but the source refused to come to Amaury’s offices. When the two finally met, the source’s story had changed: He now offered to sell Amaury materials supposedly originated by the import-export expediter Dirceu Garcia.
This Dirceu Garcia is the only witness involved in the investigation of alleged wiretapping of the PSDBduring the 2010 elections. He accuses Amaury of playing a role in a political espionage scheme. “They are trying yet again to set me up, to frame me,” says Amaury. “This time, however, the whole incident was recorded by security cameras.”
The next incident was a nebulous accusation according to which an attempt had been made to punish the Editora Geração Editorial publishing house for having published [«Privateering»].
A “snoop” inside the São Paulo police set up a meeting with the publishing house’s PR director William Novaes, and said he would hand over a dossier that would incriminate a number of PSDB politicians, among them ex-Senator Tasso Jereissati.
Amaury’s meeting with the two was recorded by hidden cameras.
The reporter believes the objective of this meeting was to feed him false evidence that could be used later to discredit his book. When Amaury refused the material, the same “source” — a man indicted for various counts of fraud — called the publisher several days later to warn that Amaury was in danger of his life.
“I believe they meant to frame me for obstructing justice in the current case, a charge that could lead to my arrest,” the reporter says.
That same week, according to Amaury, the former assistant federal prosecutor José Roberto Santoro, who according to Veja magazine has ties to PSDB politician José Serra, approached the editors of O Tempo, a newspaper in Minas Gerais, asking the newspaper to broker a meeting with the editors of Hoje em Dia, for which Amaury writes a weekly column.
The goal of this meeting, the reporter says, was to complain about an item in Amaury’s column about a mining company in Minas and the former governor of Espirito Santo.
According to Amaury, however, Santoro did not complain specifically about the content of the column. “He just sat there talking trash about me, trying to get me fired. When the paper’s executives admonished him, his tone rose to a hysterical pitch,” the reporter says. Amaury’s column still appears regularly.
What explanation is there for this series of events?
Amaury says: “It is a veritable plot, probably organized by the PSDB and counting on the assistance of certain sectors of the federal police and the federal prosecutor’s office. The objective is to undermine the public image of Lula and then move on to President Dilma.
It is important to remember here that during the 2010 campaign, Amaury was accused in the media of playing a part in a political intelligence group tied to the Rousseff campaign — the alleged scheme that invaded the privacy of the Toucans.
Amaury denies it: “They are trying to breathe new life into a dead horse that disappeared from the papers as soon as the 2010 elections were over. From what I have seen, I am betting they will return to this tactic with their eyes on the prize in 2014. Maybe they are using me as a way to get to Dilma.”
Amaury finds it odd that the case of supposed political espionage was resurrected in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign, when journalist Luiz Lanzetta of the Estado de Minas and the secretary to the editor in chief of the EM and the Correio Braziliense, Josemar Gimenez, were summoned for questioning.
Lanzetta worked on the Dilma campaign and was accused of masterminding its supposed political espionage center. As for Josemar, Amaury once worked under the editor at O Estado de Minas, where he published the series of reports that resulted in the book [Privateering].
Amaury stresses that the entire content of his book was based on public documents discovered in notary offices and corporate registries, as well as the CPI of Banestado and information obtained abroad.
Here, the journalist stops to drop a bombshell: according to, Amaury, PSDB President Sergio Guerra filed a lawsuit in a Brasília court to remove the book from circulation, alleging offenses against the honor of party leadership. The suit was filed during election season 2012 but has not yet been taken up by the courts.
“The book certainly did some damage during the elections,” Amaury says. “And it will certainly continue to do so. The odd part is that they never responded to specific claims in my book, or to specific documents reproduced in its pages,” says Amaury.
It is also odd that federal attorney general Roberto Gurgel, who received dozens of copies of the book by mail from readers indignant at its contents, never launched a probe of the «privateering» accusations. Amaury handed over part of the documents used in [Privateering] to the Polícia Federal, which also has not yet launched an investigation.
What is more, even after former PF officer and federal deputy Protógenes Queiroz (PCdoB-SP) obtained the necessary number of signatures to institute a congressional inquiry — CPI — of Privateering, the speaker of the house, Marco Maia (PT-SP) seems to be sitting on his hands.
SInce the launch of [Privateering], Amaury has been talking about writing a sequel. The second volume already has a title: Privateering 2: The Massive Plot.
Viomundo: Amaury, what is your next book about?
Amaury: I am going to show how the PSDB’s intelligence center works, and how the party dominates sectors of the federal police and prosecutor’s office.
These people are moving to deconstruct the public image, first of Lula and then later of Dilma Rousseff. I am going to try to explain why the PT is not reacting to this provocation. In the CPI of Carlinhos Cachoeira, they had all the elements in hand to investigate the relationship between the numbers racketeer and Veja magazine, for example.
Viomundo: Can you explain the surrender of CPI rapporteur Odair Cunha (PT-MG) in the case?
Amaury: The PT seems to want to surpress all such cases. I suspect there is a simple reason for this. The PT inherited and maintained the illicit funding schemes from the PSDB. In the case of Odair Cunha, we should remember that his former business partner … became a director of Furnas, with control over budget and human resources. Could it be that he has a skeleton in his closet that the PSDB found out about?
Viomundo: And what about a CPI of Privateering, will there be one?
Amaury: I don’t think so.
Odds are that the PT inherited the same scheme of promiscuous relationships that the Toucans maintained with the telecom companies. Given the latest accusations of [mensalão money man] Marcos Valério, who claims that Brasil Telecom donated $R 7 million to the PT, the PT will lose the moral high ground if the inquiry is not established. If there is no CPI of Privateering, it will become clear that they fear that they themselves would be damaged by the probe.
Viomundo: The PT leader in the lower house, Jilmar Tatto, went so far as to summon former president Cardoso to testify about the Furnas List. This action was, however, rescinded by the PT leader in the Senate, Walter Pinheiro. In the final analysis, is this Furnas List fabricated, as the PSDB claims?
Amaury: Polícia Federal document examiners say that it is genuine. The list shows donations received using a scheme organized inside Furnas by various PSDB leaders, among them Aécio Neves, Geraldo Alckmin and José Serra. A complaint was filed in a Rio federal court by prosecutor Andrea Bayão Ferreira, whose report on the case leaves no doubts about the existence of the scheme, which was fed by kickbacks from Furnas suppliers. The federal court, however, transferred the case to a state court in Rio, even though Furnas is a federal state-owned firm. This is another case in which Gurgel has taken no steps to investigate. Would he display the same inertia if the scheme were tied to the PT?
Viomundo: And this whole case of the “monthly payola of Minas”? What will become of it?
Amaury: Once again, the PSDB has received deferential treatment. In the Toucan case, the charges were individualized and sent down to Minas state courts. Only the defendants with privileged forum rights will be tried by the Supreme Court.
It is going to take some doing to create the puzzle box that facilitated the convictions in the PT case.
Gurgel’s legal theories would not have been accepted had the case involving the PT not been tried exclusively by the Supreme Court.
The PSDB enjoys this advantage.
Viomundo: Lula has not spoken of Operation Porto Seguro, which revealed influence peddling inside regulatory agencies and may have involved a personal secretary, Rosemary Nogueira. The media is full of stories exploiting what are described as “intimate relations” between Lula and Rosemary. What do you think?
Amaury: These are serious accusations and must be investigated. Even so, once against the federal police and prosecutor afford the PT and the PSDB different treatment.
Remember how ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso believed he had fathered a child with a Globo journalist and the press not only quashed the story at the time but has not mentioned it even once in the two subsequent decades.
Globo, a public concessionaire, sent the boy and his mother to Spain. I know this story quite well. I never wrote about it because it was a private matter.
But given the cynicism of the Brazilian press in such matters, I am considering adding a chapter to my book about how the mother and child were cared for in Europe.
The story is journalistically valid because it has to do with proceeds of a “slush fund” campaign. I have a witness who knows the whole story.
Viomundo: Your criticisms do not spare the Federal Police. But hasn’t it been working harder than ever of late?
Amaury: The government is occupied by the PT, but there is a nucleus of PSDB partisans inside the PF.
This explains why Dilma did not hear about Operation Porto Seguro until it was already underway. The minister of justice appeared on TV with a stunned look on his face, looking betrayed.
It is worth recalling that the case originated in the PSDB’s partisan political intelligence center, which coerced and coopted witnesses in order to move forward with the indictments. My book will describe in detail how this happened.
The book will also lay bare the promiscuous relations of the PSDB with supporters inside the federal police and prosecutor. As I will argue, there really is a veritable plot at work at work here.
Viomundo: Yes, but if Rosemary was fired on the day following the federal police operation, does this mean Dilma knew nothing beforehand? There is speculation that she allowed the operation to proceed precisely in order to eliminate a nucleus of corruption inherited from the Lula government.
Amaury: That is the big question. There is no answer to it yet. I will try to answer it in my book.
Viomundo: Since we are in the realm of speculation, is there anything to rumors that Dilma will leave the PT for the PDT?
Amaury: That would be political suicide Inside the PDT there is a death struggle between the heirs of Brizola and former federal minister Carlos Lupi. It would only make sense for Dilma to leave the party if Lula were to run again in 2014, but nothing in the current scenario suggests this possibility.
Viomundo: And what about these recordings you made of people trying to set you up, will those be in the book?
Amaury: Of course they will, but first I have to hand over the material to the police and the court. I want it made very clear that police and prosecutors are free to choose what cases to accept, investigate and prosecute.
Given that they have yet to act, however, I plan to file a request with the police and prosecutor, asking them to investigate the allegations I make in [Privateering].
I want to see whether they plan to just sit on the case, or not.
The way things are at the moment, the only other course of action open to me is to register a complaint with the ICIJ — International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — an organization headquartered in the U.S. and represented in dozens of countries. I was the first Brazilian journo to join the ICIJ and I am pondering whether to call upon it in the event that Brazilian authorities take no action.
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