The ombudsman who was supposed to investigate irregularities committed by three employees of the São Paulo Environment Ministry was also the one who defended them in an investigation by the Public Ministry against the Environment Minister Ricardo Salles. The investigation took place when Salles occupied the environmental portfolio in São Paulo between 2016 and 2017.
Prosecution by the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office calls for Salles to lose his public function.
The fulcrum of the complaint is the minister’s lawyer and friend, Roberto Pitaguari Germanos. He was appointed advisor by Salles in August 2016, responsible for the expenditure analysis of the Secretariat for Environment, Fundação Florestal and (Cetesb) Companhia Ambiental do Estado de São Paulo.
Shortly after a month, he took on the secretariat’s ombudsman, a position one of the main responsibilities of receiving complaints and investigating complaints against employees.
According to the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office, Germanos had not fulfilled his duties when an investigation was opened against Salles: “(…) The facts concerned an investigation by Parquet Umwelt and employees of the Ministry himself into the irregular or illegal behavior of the then State Secretary. One of the people who were heard and accompanied by the defendant in the case of ROBERTA BUENDIA SABBAGH was examined by the public prosecutor’s office together with RICARDO DE AQUINO SALLES, “says an extract from the complaint.
“Obviously, in filling the position of environmental ombudsman, the defendant’s task was to conduct the internal and administrative investigations into the same facts and not provide legal assistance or even defend the above employees,” the text follows.
Wanted, Salles replied through his advice that “the ombudsman never acted as a lawyer.” “This is a false statement,” he said.
The statements cited by the honorable Member relate to Secretariat staff who have been investigated for involvement of the Minister in alleged irregularities in the management plan for the Rio Tietê environmental protection area. According to a witness, Salles was keen to change the project for the benefit of the mining companies. The minister denies having committed irregularities in the management plan.
The prosecution’s new lawsuit against the minister and his former aide is the result of this investigation, which Salles found guilty of administrative inappropriateness in the first instance. The procedure is challenged with a positive vote from the rapporteur, Judge José Helton Nogueira Diefenthaler, to the minister. Two more judges have yet to speak.
The MP’s indictment also indicates that the former ombudsman not only stood up for the investigation, but also participated in administrative proceedings against secretarial officials who gave unfavorable testimony to the sales during the investigation.
The list of irregularities cited by the MP also states that Germanos, as ombudsman, deputy member of the Fiscal Council of the State Supplementary Pension Foundation (Prevcom) in São Paulo and representative of the secretariat in the Council of (Condephaat), carried out incompatible functions in defense of the historical, archaeological, artistic and tourist heritage of the state.
Despite Salles’ resignation from the state government, the lawyer remains in the São Paulo administration. In September he was appointed to a position of trust as a consultant at Prevcom. According to a social network, he has also been working as a legal advisor in the corporate market since April last year.
Roberto Germanos and Salles have known each other for a long time. In 2006 they founded the Right Brazil movement with the aim of spreading liberal ideals and fighting corruption. Another member was André Germanos, Roberto’s brother. André currently holds the Secretariat for Protected Areas of the Ministry of the Environment.
Folha’s report showed that André was appointed director of the external resources department of the portfolio’s executive secretariat in April 2019 without meeting the professional criteria required by the government. Even if they live in Brasilia, photos from Salles’ Instagram show that the three of them still have close relationships, such as lunches together.
In the civil action signed by Prosecutor Silvio Antonio Marques, he continues to demand the suspension of the political rights of Salles and Roberto Germanos for three years and a fine equal to 100 times their salary at the time of the investigation.
In the lawsuit accusing him of acting as an attorney for the investigation, Germanos denied being a representative of the suspects. He could not be reached for comment.
The new wrongdoing measure against the minister adds to the list of lawsuits and inquiries that Salles answers. The minister broke the banking secrecy of his law firm in São Paulo in June this year due to a case investigating alleged illegal enrichment.
Between 2012 and 2017, the minister transferred R $ 2.8 million from the account of his law firm Carvalho de Aquino e Salles Advogados to his personal account in 58 transactions. According to the MP, the amounts indicated in income tax do not correspond to the amount transferred by the office. The minister says that all his property has been declared.
The MPF (Federal Prosecutor’s Office), on the other hand, demands his removal in a further official misconduct in which he is accused of deliberately disrupting the state environmental protection authorities. The court of first instance rejected the application, but the MPF appealed to the TRF-1 (Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region).
The Public Prosecutor’s Audit Bureau also sent a request to the President of the Federal Accounts Court (TCU), José Múcio Monteiro, to investigate irregularities in the rental of armored vehicles by Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, which will cost the public coffers more than R $ 1 million.