Mensalão scandal

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Roberto Jefferson was the whistleblower of the corruption scheme.

The Mensalão scandal (Portuguese: Escândalo do Mensalão, IPA: [isˈkɐ̃dɐlu du mẽsɐˈlɐ̃w̃]) was a vote-buying case of corruption that threatened to bring down the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005.[1] Mensalão is a neologism and variant of the word for "big monthly payment" (salário mensal or mensalidade).

The scandal broke on June 6, 2005 when Brazilian Congressional Deputy Roberto Jefferson told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) -- usually translated as Workers' Party—had paid a number of Congressional deputies 30,000 reais (around US$12,000 at the time) a month for voting in favor of legislation favored by the ruling party. The funds were said to originate from state-owned companies' advertising budgets, funneled through an advertising agency owned by Marcos Valério. The investigation has since shown that members of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, DEM, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and seven other political parties were also involved in the scandal. During the investigation, many key advisers to President Lula resigned, while several deputies were faced with the choice of resignation or expulsion from congress, though the president himself went on to be re-elected in 2006, and in 2010 Brazil elected his chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, as president.[2] Much of the PT's leadership was affected in some way, with many resigning or failing to win re-election. Brazil's economy was widely perceived as not having been substantially impacted by the scandal.[3]

Roberto Jefferson, who initially sparked the scandal, was expelled from the Chamber of Deputies on September 14, 2005 for ethical violations determined by the Congressional Council of Ethics. Despite continued resignations of the figures involved, in October the scandal died down somewhat as Brazil held a contentious referendum on a gun sale ban, which voters soundly rejected.[4][5]


José Dirceu was the Chief of Staff of Brazil when the scandal broke. He was dropped after Jefferson described Dirceu as the ringleader of a plot to hand out illegal monthly payments to congressmen.

On September 18, 2004, the Brazilian weekly magazine Veja printed a cover story entitled, "Scandal: The PT's buyout of the PTB". The article described the development of an alliance between the Workers Party (PT) and the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB). According to the magazine, the PT had promised to pay R$150,000 to each PTB congressional deputy if they would support the executive branch. It is alleged that because these promises were not fulfilled, a storm of allegations of corruption against the PT began to appear in May 2005.[citation needed]

On September 24, 2004, the Rio de Janeiro newspaper Jornal do Brasil published an article citing Veja and also claiming that former Minister of Communications Miro Teixeira had revealed the existence of monthly payments to the Ministry of Public Prosecution.

On September 25, 2004, Jornal do Brasil published another story claiming that president of the Chamber of Deputies João Paulo Cunha (PT) promised to fully investigate the claims and quoted the president of the Popular Socialist Party (Brazil) Roberto Freire as commenting: "This subject has been circulating for months in Congress but nobody has the courage to approach it."

The scandal emerges[edit]

On May 14, 2005, Veja published a new story describing an apparent corruption scheme in the Brazilian Postal Service. The magazine described the content of a 110-minute video tape recording, made with a hidden camera, which showed former Post Office Chief Maurício Marinho (pt) apparently receiving a bribe from a businessman. The full bribery scheme involving government contracts was allegedly administered by the Post Office's administrative director Antônio Osório Batista and by Jefferson, a Post Office manager as well as a federal deputy.

On the tape, Marinho receives and then pockets R$3,000 (about 1,259 USD) in cash. The recording was aired by the major Brazilian television stations.

Agents from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) took part in investigating the Post Office case. As the scandal developed, it was argued[who?] that this was linked to an attempt to destroy the PT's former allies without the scandal exploding upon the government. However, a major political battle began when the government tried to systematically obstruct the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Investigation (CPI) to investigate the growing corruption scandal.[citation needed]

On June 3, 2005 the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo published a story claiming that the government was tying funds to various projects to support the creation of the CPI.[citation needed]

Because of these claims, part of the government's base joined the opposition to support the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Investigation. Abandoned by his allies, Jefferson began to counterattack. On June 6, Folha de S.Paulo published an interview with Jefferson. Jefferson claimed that Delúbio Soares, the treasurer of the Workers' Party, was making a monthly payment of R$30,000 to certain Congressional deputies, in order to influence them to vote with the government. Jefferson claimed that those who received the monthly payment called it mensalão, derived from the Portuguese word for a monthly payment. "Mensalão" quickly became the adopted popular label for the scandal, now identified as the "escândalo do mensalão."

According to Jefferson, the operator of the payment scheme was businessman Marcos Valério de Souza, an owner of the advertising agencies SMP&B and DNA, which had large government contracts.

After the creation of the Investigative Commission, the government allegedly tried to control the commission by installing pro-government allies Senator Delcídio do Amaral (PT) as President and Deputy Osmar Serraglio (PMDB) as the key rapporteur.

Although the Congressional Commission of Investigation for the Post Office scandal was officially restricted in its scope to an investigation of irregularities in the Post Office's administration, it began to investigate the expanding monthly payment claims because of the apparent connections between the cases.

An additional commission was created to investigate the broader scandal on July 20. Allies of the government occupied the key posts. The President of the CPI was Senator Amir Lando (pt) and the rapporteur (responsible for writing the final report) was Deputy Ibrahim Abi-Ackel. Abi-Ackel was minister of justice in the government of João Baptista Figueiredo, and was also accused of being involved in a corruption scandal.

José Dirceu was once a leftist student leader who organized against the right-wing military dictatorship after it took power in 1964. Arrested in 1968, he was one of the political prisoners who were released at the request of the kidnappers of the Ambassador of the United States.[6] He was exiled to Cuba. Later, he secretly returned to Brazil, took on a false identity and had undergone plastic surgery to disguise his face. He hid in the state of Paraná and opened a shop. During this time, he became involved as a student union leader. He got married but did not reveal his true identity even after having a son with his wife. Only after 1979, when political amnesty was declared, did he openly return to political life, campaigning for democratic elections and the end of the dictatorship regime.

As a consequence of the mensalão scandal, Dirceu resigned as Chief of Staff to President Lula in 2005.[3]

The scandal's development[edit]

The equipment used in the recording of the bribery negotiation in a Correios post office .

In early July 2005, an advisor to Congressional deputy and brother of Workers’ Party President José Genoíno, was seized at an airport with $100,000 in his underwear and additional funds in his luggage. The wives and secretaries of key figures testified in the numerous and overlapping Congressional panels, including Valério's secretary, Fernanda Karina Somaggio (pt), and the ex-wife of Valdemar Costa Neto, Maria Christina Mendes Caldeira, who later fled to the United States with nothing but her clothes and a support animal and applied for asylum under a secret identity.[7]

The Congressional hearings were often marked by fiery rhetoric and emotional outbursts, including numerous incidents of crying by witnesses and Workers' Party deputies. Although still murky and unclear, reported links between the scandal, its key figures, and the murder of Santo André's mayor Celso Daniel and various mafia and criminal figures have only intensified its sensational tone and societal impact. One key event that broadened the scandal into more of a general investigation of the Workers' Party history as whole was the sudden testimony of Duda Mendonça, public relations specialist and campaign manager for Lula's 2002 campaign, on August 11. He claimed that he was paid using off-shore bank accounts and possibly illegal funds connected to Valério.

The scandal, which had at that time not yet involved Brazil's finance minister who is often claimed to be popular with the international finance community, threatened Antonio Palocci's standing after lawyer and former advisor Rogério Tadeu Buratti testified that Palocci was involved in corrupt activities while mayor of Ribeirão Preto in the mid-90's.

Lula's popularity waxed and waned, but no definite proof emerged that he orchestrated or had knowledge of any monthly payments.[3] Much of the PT's leadership was affected in some way, with many resigning or failing to win re-election. Brazil's economy was widely perceived as not having been substantially impacted by the scandal.

Roberto Jefferson, who initially sparked the scandal, was expelled from the Chamber of Deputies on September 14, 2005 for ethical violations determined by the Congressional Council of Ethics. Despite continued resignations from the figures involved, in October the scandal died down somewhat as Brazil had a referendum on gun sales that resulted in a loss for the government's position. At the end of October, Veja published a new story claiming that the Workers' Party had received illegal campaign funds from Cuba—threatening to re-intensify the scandal once again, though that was not ultimately the case.

First joint preliminary CPI report[edit]

José Genoino was found guilty of bribery by the Supreme Federal Court for his involvement in the Mensalão scandal.

The Post Office and Vote Buying parliamentary commissions of investigation unanimously approved their first joint preliminary report on September 1, 2005.

The report accused 18 Brazilian deputies of involvement in the corruption scandal:

The report accuses them of misdeeds including illegal campaign finance activities, placing cronies in strategic positions in government enterprises and receiving kickbacks in return, and receiving cash payments in exchange for voting with the government in the Brazilian Congress.

In regard to the claims initially made by deputy Roberto Jefferson (PTB) the report states:

  • Everything he said that could be investigated was revealed to appear to be valid, including his own confessions.
  • Everything he said when compared to other testimonies showed a great degree of validity.

The report stated that several documents were identified and validated proving that large sums of money were withdrawn from agencies of the Rural Bank in Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, as well as from the bank accounts of the enterprises SMPB and DNA. According to the documents, the beneficiaries were federal deputies who received funds in person or through relatives, advisers, or individuals chosen by Marcos Valério.

The report said it was possible that some payments were made on a monthly basis and others more or less frequently. That the scheme existed at all, however, was to deemed more important than the timing of the payments.

The editors of the CPI report called the defense made by some parliamentarians that the funds were used to settle debts from electoral campaigns a "lame excuse".

Congressional Committees of Investigation (CPIs)[edit]

The following CPIs are involved in the investigation of issues that are related to the overall Cash-for-Vote scandal. [1]

  • Post Office CPI: Created June 9, 2005 to investigate alleged irregularities and corruption in the Brazilian Post Office. After the claims by Deputy Roberto Jefferson, this CPI began investigation into the alleged payments made to Brazilian deputies by the ruling party. The termination of the committee's work is scheduled for February 21, 2006.
  • Bingo CPI: Created on June 19, 2005 to investigate the use of houses of Bingo gambling for money laundering and the relationship between these houses and organized crime. The CPI was proposed after a tape revealed that the Waldomiro Diniz (an advisor to the Minister José Dirceu) was apparently extorting the gambling mafia of Rio de Janeiro to gain funds for Workers' Party political campaigns. The termination of the committee's work is scheduled for October 26, 2005.
  • Vote Buying CPI: Created July 20, 2005 to investigate the alleged monthly payments to deputies. The Workers' Party requests a parallel investigation of the electoral reform to allow a second term for ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB). The termination of the committee's work is scheduled for November 16, 2005.

Also there was a movement instigated by members of opposition in order to create a fourth CPI to investigate off-book accounts in all parties' during the most recent elections. Due to serial allegations of the occurring of this kind of operation in many politicians' campaigns in 2002, including President Lula's, many believed this CPI could result in a legal and concrete reason to start his impeachment process. However this process was aborted.

Ethics' Council[edit]

The council of Ethics and Parliamentary Decorum of the House is the organ responsible for processing and disciplining members for behavior not in concordance with Parliamentary Decorum.

In order to expel a deputy, 257 votes out of 513 are needed. If expelled, in addition to losing his seat in the Congress and parliamentary privileges and immunity, the member can be barred from holding any public office for eight years. Jefferson will be prohibited from running for office again until 2015. [2] [3]

Supreme Court indictment[edit]

On August 24, 2007, the Supreme Federal Court, responsible for judging criminal proceedings against parliamentarians due to parliamentary immunity, accepted the indictments of 40 individuals related to the Mensalão scandal, most which are former or current federal deputies, and all of whom were or are allies of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.[9]

Supreme Court trial[edit]

The trial began in August 2012.

In the first 23 sessions of the trial the Supreme Court ruled that there had been misuse of public money mixed with bank loans to fund the scheme. Ten of the 37 defendants received sentences including one of the main leaders of the scheme, Marcos Valério, while three were acquitted.[10][needs update]

On 15 September 2012 Veja published a new story alleging that Marcos Valério had told friends that former president Lula da Silva was the mastermind of the corruption scheme. José Dirceu's allies said that it was a lie and that Marcos Valério was out of his head and desperate because he was convicted and facing prison.[11]

On September 17 the court began to examine the main accusations, which included allegations that José Dirceu was the leader of the vote-buying scheme, which laundered and then disbursed millions in public and private money to secure votes in the National Congress from 2003 to 2005.[12] The rapporteur of the case argued that there was clear evidence that such activities occurred, saying that "there is no doubt that this scheme existed."[11]

On 9 October 2012, the court ruled José Dirceu, José Genoino and Delúbio Soares guilty of the crime of bribery (Corrupção Ativa). On 15 November 2013 the STF[who?] president ordered their imprisonment and as that coincides with the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic there was much debate about Barbosa's reasons for waiting until then. Some days later Genoino was transferred to house arrest out of concerns about his health.

Timing of key withdrawals and votes[edit]

Documents from the Council for Control of Financial Activities (Conselho de Controle de Atividades Financeiras [Coaf]) indicate that between July and May 2003, withdrawals of 27 million reais were made from the accounts of businessman Marcos Valério.

According to deputy Roberto Jefferson, the money for the mensalão came from Banco Rural and the Banco do Brasil. Documents from Coaf validate the withdrawals from Banco Rural; the withdrawals from the Banco do Brasil have not yet been traced.

The table below shows a side-by-side description of some of the withdrawals and connected votes in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate of Brazil.


Principal figures in the scandal[edit]

Workers Party[edit]

  1. José Dirceu, accused by Jefferson of being the leader of the scheme
  2. José Genoíno, President of the PT, suspect in connection to his brother, Deputy José Nobre Guimarães (pt), whose political advisor was caught trying to go through airport security with wads of cash in his underwear.
  3. Delúbio Soares, Treasurer of the PT
  4. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former President of Brazil. As the scandal occurred during his term, there is much debate about his role on it, or if he has a role it at all. Later he was nominally accused by Jefferson of being aware of the scheme but so far there have been no charges against him.[when?]
  5. Marcelo Sereno, National leader of PT
  6. Silvio Pereira, National leader PT, received a Land Rover from a supplier to Petrobras
  7. João Paulo Cunha (PT-São Paulo) - Ex-Speaker of the House. Witnesses testified seeing his wife visiting Banco Rural in Brasília
  8. Paulo Rocha (PT-Pará) - Ex-leader of the PT in the House. An adviser of his was seen outside the Banco Rural.
  9. Luiz Carlos da Silva, known as Professor Luizinho (pt) (PT-São Paulo) - Ex-leader of the government in the House. Had an adviser who received R$20,000 from Marcos Valério.
  10. José Mentor (PT-São Paulo) - His office received R$60,000.00 from a Banco Rural account belonging to Marcos Valério
  11. José Nobre Guimarães (PT-Ceará) - Brother of PT party chief José Genuíno. His adviser was found with US$100,000.00 in his underwear and R$200,000.00 in a suitcase while trying to pass through airport security. Guimarães was also accused of receiving R$250,000.00 from the accounts of Marcos Valério.
  12. José Adalberto Vieira da Silva (PT-Ceará) adviser to José Nobre Guimarães, found with money hidden in his underpants.
  13. Josias Gomes (PT-Bahia) - suspected of personally withdrawing R$100,000 from the accounts of Marcos Valério.
  14. Luiz Gushiken, ex-communication secretary, accused of issues relating to his former firms. He was cleared of all charges during the trial, but died of cancer a few months later.

Allied figures[edit]

These figures are members of other parties that gave political support to the Workers' Party before the scandal: PTB, PP, PL, and the PMDB.

  1. Roberto Jefferson (PTB-Rio de Janeiro) - Deputy who sparked the scandal with his initial allegations. Accused of operating a corruption scheme using state enterprises and the Post Office. Also accused of receiving millions of dollars from Marcos Valério to assist the PTB without declaring it to the electoral authorities.
  2. José Carlos Martinez (PTB-Paraná) - Deputy who has already died. Accused of receiving R$1,000,000.00
  3. José Janene (PP-Paraná) - Cited by Jefferson since the start of the scandal. Accused of distributing the Mensalão to the parliamentary group of the PP. His involvement was confirmed in testimony by his advisor João Cláudio Genu to the Federal Police, who confessed to making the withdrawals and delivering the money to the treasury of the PP.
  4. Pedro Corrêa (PP-Pernambuco) - President of the PP, also accused by Jefferson and incriminated by Genu.
  5. Pedro Henry (PP-Mato Grosso) - Ex-leader of the House, also implicated in the testimony of Genu.
  6. José Borba (PMDB-Paraná) - Ex-leader of the PMDB in the House. Is accused of receiving R$2.1 million by the financial director of Valério's firm SMPB, but of refusing to sign the receipt for the withdrawal (forcing an employee of SMPB to go to the bank branch to release the payment)
  7. Valdemar Costa Neto (PL-São Paulo) - Accused of being the distributor of the Mensalão to the bench of the PL. His ex-treasurer, Jacinto Lamas, is accused of being the main beneficiery listed in the withdrawals from the accounts of Marcos Valério in Banco Rural, receiving R$10,837,500. To avoid the process of removal from Congress, on August 1 he resigned before an inquiry could be opened.
  8. Bishop Rodrigues (PL-Rio de Janeiro) - Coordinated the grouping of members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in the House. Accused of receiving R$150,000. Was afterwards expelled from the church.
  9. Anderson Adauto (PL-Minas Gerais) - Ex-Minister of Transportation, accused of receiving, through the intermediary of his cabinet chief, one million reals from Marcos Valério.


  1. Marcos Valério - Businessman. Accused of being the operator of the "mensalão", he supposedly operated several public relations firms and advertising agencies whose bank accounts were used to distribute funds to members of the Workers' Party and other allied Brazilian parties. He is also accused of participating of Eduardo Azeredo's off-book accounting.
  2. Duda Mendonça - Campaign manager and public relations specialist who led Lula Presidential campaign. His partner, Zilmar da Silveira, appears as a recipient of funds from Marcos Valério (R$15,500,000.00).
  3. Fernanda Karina Somaggio - Secretary of Marcos Valério. Her datebook was seized by the Federal Police. She confirmed the Valério's connection to Delúbio Soares and with other deputies accused of involvement in the corruption scheme. Also charged that payments were made with suitcases filled with money.
  4. Renilda Soares - Valério's wife. Accused José Dirceu of having full knowledge of the corruption scheme.
  5. Toninho da Barcelona - also known as Antonio Oliveira Claramunt. One of the principal Brazil foreign exchange specialists. Arrested for illegal financial activities, he alleged that he did various exchanges for the PT and other parties. He claimed the PT maintained a secret foreign bank account.
  6. Rogério Buratti - ex-advisor to Antonio Palocci. Arrested by police on August 16, 2005. He is accused of participating in fraud in contracts between the local district of Ribeirão Preto and garbage collection firms, money laundering, and extortion. Claimed that during the administration of Antonio Palocci there was a corruption scheme to divert funds to the Workes' Party.
  7. Sérgio Gomes da Silva, "the Shadow" - Businessman and ex-body guard for the mayor of Santo André Celso Daniel. He is accused of having ordered the assassination of the mayor.
  8. Maria Christina Mendes Caldeira - ex-wife of the deputy Valdemar Costa Neto. Accused her former husband of receiving the mensalão and of receiving an irregular donation from Taiwanese businessmen.

Major businesses involved[edit]


State companies[edit]

Private companies[edit]

  • Guaranhuns (front company)
  • DNA (business of Marcos Valério)
  • SMP&B (business of Marcos Valério, Cristiano Paz and Ramon Cardoso)

Financial institutions[edit]

United States[edit]

Timeline of key events[edit]

Figures losing their posts as a result of the scandal[edit]

  1. Mauricio Marinho, Post Office Chief, May 14
  2. The director of the Post Office Administration, Antonio Osório Batista and his immediately assistant Fernando Godoy, May 16
  3. Luiz Appolonio Neto, President of the IRB, May 21
  4. The leadership of the Correios and of the IRB, June 7
  5. The directors of electrical firms: Dimas Fabiano Toledo, Rodrigo Botelho Campos e José Roberto Cesaroni Cury, June 30
  6. José Dirceu, Presidential Chief of Staff, June 14
  7. Roberto Jefferson, President of PTB, June 17
  8. Silvio Pereira, Secretary-General of the PT, July 4
  9. Delúbio Soares, Treasurer of PT, July 5
  10. Glenio Guedes, Directory of the Conselho de Recursos do Sistema Financeiro, July 6
  11. José Adalberto Vieira da Silva (pt), aide to deputy José Nobre Guimarães, July 8
  12. José Nobre Guimarães, Manager of the state directory of the PT-CE, July 9
  13. José Genoino, President of the Workers' Party (PT), July 9
  14. Marcelo Sereno, Communication Secretary of the PT, July 9
  15. Henrique Pizzolato, Director of marketing of the Banco do Brasil, July 10
  16. Luiz Gushiken, Ministério da Comunicação e Gestão Estratégica was relegated downwards, July 12.
  17. Luiz Gushiken was downgraded again. Left position as at Secretary of Communication to become an adviser to President Lula, July 21
  18. Valdemar Costa Neto, Federal deputy and president of the Liberal Party (PL), resigned his mandate, August 1
  19. Marcio Lacerda, Executive Secretary in the Ministry of National Integration, August 2
  20. Manoel Severino, President of the Casa da Moeda do Brasil, tendered resignation, August 3
  21. Danilo de Camargo, Coordinator of the Commission of Ethics in the PT, August 6
  22. Juscelino Antonio Dourado, Cabinet chief of Finance Minister, September 1


  1. ^ BBC. "Q&A: Brazil's 'big monthly' corruption trial".  21 November 2012. Retrieved on 10 March 2013
  2. ^ "What is Brazil's "mensalão"?: A votes-for-cash scandal that touched some of the country's most senior politicians - and sent some of them to prison". The Economist Explains. The Economist. November 18, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c "What is Brazil's "mensalão"?: A votes-for-cash scandal that touched some of the country's most senior politicians - and sent some of them to prison". The Economist Explains. The Economist. November 18, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  4. ^ Jonathan Wheatley (October 22, 2005). "Brazil's gun ban referendum misses its target". Financial Times. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  5. ^ Julie McCarthy. "Brazil Holds Contentious Vote on Gun Control Law". National Public Radio. 
  6. ^ Rohter, Larry (July 16, 2003). "Behind Brazil's Leftist Leader, a Kindred Spirit Thrives". NYTIMES. Retrieved 15 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Wálter Nunes (January 8, 2017). "Ex-mulher de deputado do mensalão pede asilo político nos Estados Unidos" (in Portuguese). Folha de S. Paulo. Retrieved April 17, 2017. 
  8. ^ Bruno Fávero (May 3, 2016). "Citado no mensalão, ex-deputado Professor Luizinho reaparece e defende PT no aeroporto". Folha de S. Paulo. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  9. ^ Q&A: Brazil corruption scandal. BBC News. September 4, 2007. Retrieved on October 14, 2007.
  10. ^ "STF launches ‘core policy’ of the mensalão trial". Brazil Institute. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2016. . Brazil Portal. September 17, 2012. Retrieved on September 17, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "O julgamento do mensalão" (in Portuguese). Folha de São Paulo. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "Brazil's 'trial of the century'". Aljazeera. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 

External links[edit]