Sending actions to the Right of Election attracts scrutiny and deferment of judgment

Sending actions to the Right of Election attracts scrutiny and deferment of judgment

BRASÍLIA, DF, AND SÃO PAULO, SP (FOLHAPRESS) – The delay in sending criminal acts and investigations to the Electoral Justice Judge, linked to the body’s lack of structure to judge complex cases, has benefited former governors who were the target of operations by suspicion of offenses involving ordinary and electoral crimes.

There are periods of extensive discussion about the proper forum for prosecution, as well as a series of appeals by the defense directly to the STF (Supreme Court of the Federation) to ensure that the cases are under the jurisdiction of the election judges.

This comes about four years after the Supreme Court agreed that the Electoral Judge is responsible for judging criminal offenses such as corruption and money laundering, when these cases are investigated along with allegations of money laundering.

The decision was against what was defended by the PGR (Attorney General of the Republic) -at that time commanded by Raquel Dodge-, members of the Lava Jato task forces and also anti-corruption organizations.

A report released by Transparency International in October pointed to the transfer of cases related to corruption and money laundering linked to illegal money to the Electoral Justice as one of the reasons why Brazil has backtracked on its anti-corruption promises.

The most recent case is that of the former governor of the Federal District, José Roberto Arruda (PL). Indicted in 2009 on charges of ideological perjury following the Operation Pandora Box investigation, he was found guilty in 2017.

In 2020, TRF-1 (Federal Court of Region 1) accepted the sentence. His lawyers then submitted a direct request to the STF requesting that the records be sent to the Electoral Court.

Last May, a few months before the elections, Minister André Mendonça annulled the sentences and ordered the documents to be sent to the Electoral Court. Several days later, Mendonça did the same with Arruda’s second conviction, which he accused of witness tampering.

The Public Ministry appealed, and the case is still in the Supreme Court.

Also in the Federal District, a criminal action was taken to the Electoral Court against former governor Agnelo Queiroz (PT). The process stems from Operation Panathenaic, which in 2017 investigated allegations of defects in public works, such as the stadium built for the 2014 World Cup.

The STF ministers who defended the compromise established in 2019 said that the law is clear in establishing the Right to Election as the right platform for this type of situation. The Electoral Code states that it is up to election judges to “judge election crimes and common crimes related to them”.

The decision sparked a race to expand the structure to investigate and conduct these cases by election courts.

In São Paulo, a task force of prosecutors was established in 2020 with the aim of uncovering accusations made by whistleblowers from large companies, in an initiative named “Lava Jato Eleitoral”.

One of the main processes involved the former governor of São Paulo and the current vice president, Geraldo Alckmin (PSB), but it ended up being blocked in December by Minister Ricardo Lewandowski, of the STF.

Lewandowski considered that the prosecution used evidence from the amnesty agreement of the Odebrecht contractor that had already been revoked in the decisions against other defendants, including President Lula (PT).

Throughout the country, the situation is uncertain regarding the development of processes of this type in the Right to Election.

In Rio de Janeiro, for example, the referral of a high-impact case to the Electoral Judge ended up giving a tour of the records and office.

Complaints involving former governor Sérgio Cabral (former MDB) regarding Operation Furna da Onça, which arrested government deputies in 2018, were pending in the Federal Court until March 2021, when STF Minister Gilmar Mendes ordered the process to go to the Electoral Court.

The presiding election prosecutor later concluded that there was no evidence of election crime in the case file and requested that this crime be closed.

With this in mind, the electoral judge decided to request a position from the Federal Public Ministry, which agreed to the submission regarding electoral crimes. The agency, however, requested that the case be referred to the state courts for the possibility of dealing with other offenses, which was done.

Outraged, one of the defendants went back to the Supreme Court, and Gilmar Mendes reaffirmed in March that the case should remain in the Electoral Court. The process is still ongoing.

The governor of Goiás for four terms, the toucan Marconi Perillo was arrested in an operation in 2018 and was accused the following year on charges of arbitrary corruption, embezzlement and criminal organization related to the alleged payment of the contractor Odebrecht.

The case was also referred to the Electoral Judge, but, last year, the decision of Gilmar Mendes invalidated the steps taken during the investigation – which, in practice, made the progress of the process impossible.

Perillo ran for Senate again in October, but was not elected. “From the beginning, this operation had a clear goal: to harm me politically”, said Toucan at the time.

In the case of Ricardo Coutinho from Paraíba (former PSB, today in PT), the investigation was also completed, but progress stalled in a long debate about which forum the complaint should be addressed.

Operation Calvário, launched in 2019, concluded that the former governor led a criminal organization that collected bribes in government contracts in the Health area. He was also accused of corruption.

In early 2020, he was accused in a state court. In 2021, the defense obtained the decision of the STF to refer the case to the Electoral Judge of Paraíba, on the grounds that the facts involved campaign funds.

However, the electoral court decided to return the process to the regular courts, as it understood that the complaint brought the involvement of the crime of a criminal organization, without mentioning the electoral defects.

In June last year, Minister Gilmar Mendes again announced the impotence of the collective right and reaffirmed the merit of the Right to Election.

The former governor said that the operation was an act of political persecution.

In Paraná, the toucan Beto Richa was arrested three times between 2018 and 2019. Part of the criminal acts against him were sent to the Electoral Justice and the STF. However, another part has been suspended and is waiting for the STJ to decide whether it will be dealt with in the Judge of Paraná or in the Election. Richa was elected as a federal deputy in the last election.

There was also a release already explained. This was the case of Raimundo Colombo (PSD), who led Santa Catarina from 2011 to 2018. Accused of money laundering according to Odebrecht’s charges, he was acquitted in the first and second cases.

It was understood that the Public Ministry did not provide sufficient proof that the politician requested, negotiated and received transfers from Odebrecht, as reported by the contractor’s whistleblowers. “Judgment cannot be based on imagination”, wrote the judge in question, Margani de Mello.

After being investigated, Colombo lost his bid for the Senate in the 2018 and 2022 elections.

Even before the decision of the STF, in 2018 the STJ (Supreme Court of Justice) decided to send the processes of the former governor of Minas Gerais Fernando Pimentel (PT) to the Right of Election.

In 2015, Pimentel was the target of Operation Acronym, which investigated allegations of money laundering in electoral campaigns – including the PT campaign in 2014- related to communications agencies and publishing companies.

In total, four actions and investigations on Pimentel were sent to the Electoral Justice. He was acquitted in one case and, in another case, the Public Ministry appealed.

The other two, which are conducted in secret according to the TRE-MG (Regional Electoral Court), still have no decision. The former governor has always denied the allegations.