By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Supporters of high-ranking members of the Workers’ Party (PT), José Genoino, Delúbio Soares and José Dirceu, condemned in the landmark mensalão cash-for-votes corruption trial have set up crowdfunding websites, as well as organized fundraisers, to help pay for the fines imposed by Brazil’s highest court for the politicians’ crimes. The mastermind of the mensalão corruption scheme, José Dirceu, has already raised over half of the fines imposed by the Supreme Federal Court through his website, photo internet recreation of www.apoiozedirceu.com.br. The move has prompted criticism from members of the country’s Congress and the Supreme Federal Court (STF) in what seems like an attempt to avoid full punishment in a trial that has been riddled by rounds of appeals and delayed prison warrants. Former PT president, José Genoino, who was found guilty of corruption and forming a criminal gang, was the first one to set up a crowdfunding website. The Supreme Federal Court ordered him to pay R$667,500, the sum of money he is said to have helped divert from public coffers through the mensalão corruption scheme. Genoino’s family and supporters raised R$761,900 through a website to cover his fines. His site went live on January 9th and by January 20th, donations to Genoino’s funds exceeded the amount owed. They allege that Genoino, who has been at the Papuda prison complex in Brasília since November, does not have the wealth to afford his corruption fines. One day after Genoino paid for his fine in full, Delúbio Soares, the disgraced former treasurer of the PT, announced he had set up a crowdfunding website of his own. He received R$1.01 million in donations in nine days, which allowed Soares to quickly pay for his $466,800 fine. The additional funds will be used to cover the corruption fines of another mensaleiro, former PT Senator João Paulo Cunha. Soares began serving his nearly nine-year prison sentence in November. STF Justice Gilmar Mendes has been targeted by the Workers’ Party for suggesting an investigation into the funds raised by the convicted politicians, photo by José Cruz/ABr. On February 12th, José Dirceu, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff and mastermind of the mensalão kickback scheme, launched his own crowdfunding website. As of February 18th, the site had already raised R$643,673, over half of the R$971.128,92 Dirceu was meant to pay for corruption and forming a criminal gang. Dirceu was sentenced to a ten year and ten month sentence, which he began to serve at Papuda in November. The crowdfunding websites, as well as fundraiser dinners hosted by PT groups to pay for the crimes, have stirred controversy among members of the court that tried the high-ranking politicians and PT members. Gilmar Mendes, a Supreme Federal Court Justice, said last Friday that the fundraisers to cover fines were an affront to the court’s decision. “It is not more than an attempt to disqualify a judicial decision that condemned them and the initiative has transformed into an undue process of transfer of punishment,” Mendes affirmed at a lecture at a law school outside Recife city. Two weeks earlier, Mendes had said that the funds raised to pay for the fines imposed by the STF should be investigated by the Public Ministry. “Is it a result of money laundering? Is it a result of corruption?” he had asked of the millionaire fundraisers. His statement prompted PT Senator Eduardo Suplicy to send Mendes a letter defending the support PT members had given each other and the PT President, Rui Falcão, to file a notice for clarification with the court for, what he deemed, offensive to the honor of the Workers’ Party. The fundraising initiatives have also drawn criticism for perpetuating Brazil’s so-called culture of impunity. The crowdfunding websites prompted Deputy João Campos from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) to introduce a new law that would make fundraising to pay for fines imposed by Brazil’s court system illegal. According to Campos, the mensalão fundraisers “truly enhance the ridicule of the criminal justice system” and constitute “a clear demonstration of impunity.” 4 Responses to "Imprisoned Mensaleiros Fundraise to Pay Fines" Barry Varkel February 19, 2014 at 4:10 AM I have yet to see any high ranking Brazilians serve their full jail terms and/or be properly punished for their crimes. Former President Fernando Collor de Mello springs to mind. Didn’t he disappear and live in exile in Miami before returning to Brazil to receive a mere slap on the wrist for what he had done and then have the gall to run for the position of Senator again? Prison in Brazil is only meant for the poor. The rich never see the inside of anything except that of a safety deposit box containing the millions in cash that they have illicitly obtained. How can you expect the rest of the world to take Brazil seriously when rich upper class criminals give the criminal justice system the proverbial finger? I’m sure millions of reias were spent on the corruption Trial, money which would have been better spent on repairing roads and on social welfare programmes. What can I say, the Mensalao Trial and final result just underline everything I have ever thought about what the real and true Brazil is all about – a modern day feudal system where the masters rule their slaves and the system with a stick and an AK47. Very sad indeed. Walkyrio February 19, 2014 at 3:29 PM The so-called mensalão scheme never really existed and is part of a media coup to discredit the current working party government that has raised millions out of sheer poverty. Jose Dirceu is the one responsible for a bill to break down media empires – same way Time Warner had to give up some businesses in the US. For this reason Dirceu has become media´s #1 enemy. The people´s voluntary contributions come to prove the “judgment” was actually a scam. Barry Varkel February 20, 2014 at 1:19 PM @Walkyrio, Are you perhaps suggesting that the legal system in Brazil is so corrupt that a case of this magnitude could make it all the way to highest Court in Brazil and that the Judges who heard the case would be complicit of an elaborate scam and actually were mere pawns of the media at the expense of the PT political party who ultimately appointed them as Judges? What about judicial independence. This is completely absurd. If this indeed the case, then Brazil is probably one of the most corrupt societies on earth. Was the crowdfunding money deposited anonymously so as eliminate the trace of the source (friends of Dirceu) or was the money actually funds of the convicted criminals themselves and this was a perfect method to launder the funds? I must say that I do find your suggestion astounding, but then again anything is possible in Brazil and nothing surprises me. Warm regards. Barry Varkel Lowe February 27, 2014 at 7:35 PM Interesting comments from Barry Varkel and Walkyrio. I am a Brazilian who lives away for more than 20 years. The corruption in Brazil has reached its peak point, sadly a point of no return. There are so much corruption in all levels of government that one can’t even imagine. I have friends and family members from all political sides and what I always say to them is that corruption was not created by the PT, it has been cooking for years way before Fernando Collor de Melo. I truly believe that the anger of the people at the PT is because said party is the party of the people, where a uneducated man became president. How dare a poor person to take a slice of the pie? I travel from south to north of Brazil every year and have seen the progress especially in the poor areas of the interior, where people simply didn’t have food to eat, there is no hanger, there is electricity everywhere. PT created programs to eliminate hanger and poverty. I know that there is a long way to go but at least this party did something for a large part of the population, whereas the other parties never done a thing, except put taxpayers money into their bank accounts. The poor? who cares about them. Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.