2 April 2019
By Pedro Canario
The plea bargain agreement Odebrecht signed with the Federal Prosecution Service in December 2016 is quite similar to agreement with Petrobras. Both provide for the setting up of a judicial account under the tutelage of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, with the money being at the disposal of the FPS to do with it as they wish.
Odebrecht agreement with the FPS also allows Car Wash prosecutors to manage the fine paid by the engineering company.
In the Odebrecht case, the company undertook to pay $ 2.9 billion as a fine for their misdeeds, to be divided by the FPS amongst themselves, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Prosecutor-General of Switzerland. The part that is to remain in Brazil is to be under the charge of the Car Wash prosecutors in Curitiba.
According to the agreement, this money is to be for reparation of ” material and non- material damages” caused by the corruption at Odebrecht. According to the explanation given by the FPS in Parana to ConJur, 80% of the money will remain in Brazil, 10% with the USA and 10%, in Switzerland. Thus, the FPS will be responsible for managing R$ 6,8 billion.
Of that amount that is to remain in Brazil, 97.5% is to go to “public bodies, companies and foundations and mixed economy companies” damaged by the deeds of the engineering company. In other words, $ 1.71 billion is to be directed at the discretion of the FPS. The other 2.5% is to go to the Federal purse in compensation for having committed administrative impropriety.
The sharing out of the money is set forth in paragraph 3 of clause 7 of the agreement, according to which the “total amount is to go to the Federal Prosecution Service”. In response to questions from ConJur however, the FPS asserts that “the agreement does not give the resources to the Federal Prosecution Service nor place them under management by the Prosecution Service”. According to the official explanation, the money will be paid to the “victims”, wherever the FPS is responsible the administrative impropriety suit adheres to the FPS agreement.
Although the agreement is public and one of its clauses says that the money will be at the disposal of the FPS, its destination is described in a secret clause of the document, “Appendix 5”. This document was not published by the Prosecution Service and is being dealt with carefully by the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, which was led by the now Minister of Justice Sergio Moro throughout Operation Car Wash. At least three times, Moro denied requests for access to this appendix under the argument that it could harm investigations underway.
The agreement with Odebrecht is dated December 2016 and is therefore older than the Petrobras one signed in September 2018 and published in January this year. But many of the elements that raise suspicions about the intentions of the Car Wash prosecutors and its anti-corruption crusade were already there — and have not been seen.
In the case of Petrobras, annexes of the agreement were published recently and revealed these intentions: the setting up of a foundation in which the money, $ 650 million, is to be directed at interventions to combat corruption. This fund is to be managed by the operation Car Wash prosecutors in Curitiba. Naturally, it will be sent to friendly bodies. This text was suspended by Justice Alexandre de Moraes of the Federal Supreme Court.
The Odebrecht agreement has been better protected. But we do already know, for example, that the money that is to remain in Brazil will not be sent to a Treasury account, as mandated by Supreme Court jurisprudence. It is to be under the control of members of the self-proclaimed Car Wash task force.
In exchange, they undertake to “manage” together with the Comptroller-General of the Union, with the Attorney-General of the Union and the Accounts Court of the Union so that they do not question the amount of the fine nor accuse the company and their directors of administrative impropriety.
In exchange for managing the millionaire fine, Car Wash prosecutors undertake to ‘manage’ so that oversight bodies do not interfere in the agreement
In bureaucratic jargon, “manage” means articulating and in some cases making non-official requests. In the case of public agents receiving money to do so in the name of private individuals, it is administrative advocacy, explained one specialist who spoke to ConJur on the condition of not being identified.
The U.S. chapter of the agreement has less to do with power and more to do with business. Amongst the various requirements Odebrecht has undertaken to meet is the nomination of an “external monitor of compliance with the agreement” to submit reports every 120 days.
These reports must be shown to the board of directors of the company and to the head of the FCPA division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The last item of the last annex of the agreement with the DoJ explains that the reports expected by the U.S. government will “probably include proprietary, financial, commercial and secret competition information”.
FCPA is the abbreviation for the U.S. international anti-corruption law. It exists to punish companies abroad that trade on the U.S. stock exchanges or with U.S. companies. But analysts have pointed out that the law has been used as an instrument of expansion of the economic influence of the U.S. government through private companies in other countries.
This analysis is not very popular amongst prosecutors at the DoJ who discredit the argument whenever they can. But the fact is that at the start of operation Car Wash, Odebrecht had 240,000 employees. According to the company, there are now 60,000.
The defence for ex-President Lula, made by the lawyer Cristiano Zanin Martins, has been trying to access the documents for the agreement since May 2017, without success. Moro has turned down three requests for access in the space of little more than one year. The first denial was in September 2017, when the then judge said that handing over a copy of the document could harm other investigations underway. On May 24th of the next year, he was more clear: “There is no need for access to the case documents of the plea bargain “. In the third denial, in August 2018, he merely repeated the decision of the previous year.
Since May 2017, ex-President Lula has tried to obtain access to the case documents of the Odebrecht agreement with the FPS, unsuccessfully
In February, Zanin filed a motion with the Supreme Court alleging violation of Binding Ruling 14 of the STF over the denials. The ruling guarantees the defence access to all elements of the inquiry already documented, provided the access does not harm diligences underway — exactly the argument used by Moro.
According to the lawyer, access to the documents could corroborate the defence case that Lula never received any payment for any “service” rendered to Odebrecht, and that the charges made against him have not been repeated in the U.S. They were brought in Brazil to ensure benefits for the Odebrecht family and for ex-executives of the company.
Moro argued that access to the agreement documents is not necessary. But Zanin uses the example of Petrobras: the agreement was signed in September 2018 and was published on January 30th of this year. Only weeks later, details of the setting up of the fund by the FPS were published — and the information was seen to be essential to the process, to the point of a Supreme Court Justice suspending that part until further information becomes available to judge the merits.
There and here
Lula’s defence have spoken of two main reasons for having access to the agreement documents. The first is that, in appendix 5, says the claim, there is information on the destination of the money paid by Odebrecht by way of the fine, and the FPS is arguing that Lula pay a fine in indemnification for the damages caused to the country for his corrupt deeds. But he is charged with receiving an apartment from the construction company. If both he and the company pay fines for the same facts, there would be punishment twice over, argues Zanin, which would harm the ex-President.
There was no “flagrant illegality” in Moro’s decisions denying Lula’s defence access to the agreement of Odebrecht with the FPS, says Justice Luiz Edson Fachin
Rosinei Coutinho / SCO STF
Lula also asked to see what there was in the My Web Day system. This concerns a parallel accounts software to control the bribes paid, owed and received, used by the “structured operations sector”, the bribes department, as the newspapers called it. But when the Federal Police obtained access to the system, they reported the lack of integrity of the files, with data deleted or corrupted.
For Lula’s lawyer, the fact of these files being corrupted argue in favour of his client. Odebrecht told different stories in Brazil and in the USA. Here they said hey bribed Lula for him to intercede on behalf of the company at Petrobras. One of these interventions was for the nomination of ex-directors responsible for maintaining the tender fraud scheme functioning.
But to the DoJ, the Odebrecht executives described how the cartel worked that engineering companies set up to defraud Petrobras tenders and over bill for civil construction contracts, but nothing about Lula.
At the Supreme Court, Justice Luiz Edson Fachin also denied the request for access. According to him, there was no “flagrant illegality” in Moro’s decisions, and therefore there was no reason to grant the motion. The decision was made on March 15 of this year, and also calls for further information from the self-proclaimed Car Wash task force.
The current head of the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, Luiz Antonio Bonat, repeated to Fachin the arguments of his predecessor: allowing access to the agreement documents would harm investigations underway. He added that the documents Lula asked to see, “in the main, corresponded to information which had no wider relevance”. “However, there is no obstacle to providing this information”, Bonat concluded in his ruling.
In response, Lula’s defence asked Fachin to reconsider the previous decision and that it would suspend the criminal case against the ex-President in the case of the apartment. “Is it possible to guarantee that the version of facts from Odebrecht in the plea bargain agreement documents is the same as that given in the court cases? Or are there things in the agreement documents approved there not relevant to the petitioner’s defence?”
Click here to read the Odebrecht agreement with the FPS
Click here to read the Odebrecht agreement with the DoJ
Click here to read the Lula petition to obtain access to the agreement documents
Click here to read the Justice Fachin ruling on the Lula petition
Click here to read the judge Luiz Antonio Bonat document to the Supreme Court on the Odebrecht agreement
Click here to read the request for reconsideration submitted to Justice Fachin
Criminal case 5063130-17.2016.4.04.7000, at Federal Justice in Parana
Pedro Canario is chief editor at Consultor Juridico.