Appio’s removal reflects war with TRF4 over Lava Jato’s course
The removal of Judge Eduardo Fernando Appio, from the 13th Federal Court of Curitiba, responsible for the Lava Jato Operation processes, is yet another chapter in the war of conflicting decisions, fought in recent months, with the Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region (TRF4), headquartered in Porto Alegre, which reviews its acts in the second instance.
The dispute is about the new direction that the case took under Appio’s direction. For critics, the judge would not only be deepening the dismantling of the operation, annulling convictions and evidence, but also seeking to incriminate former judge and now senator Sergio Moro (União-PR) and former prosecutor and current federal deputy Deltan Dallagnol ( We can-PR).
Before and after taking over the processes, Appio has publicly expressed opposition to the investigations of the defunct task force of the Federal Public Ministry, including citing private conversations between its members and Dallagnol with Moro, obtained and leaked by hackers.
Appio’s biggest clash, in those early months at the head of Lava Jato, took place with the judge Marcelo Malucelli, the pivot of the episode that led to the judge’s removal – Appio was recorded, according to TRF4, trying to intimidate Malucelli’s son, João Eduardo Barreto Malucelli. In a call, he allegedly pretended to be a court official and said that his father would have income tax credits. The contact was made after leaking the lawyer’s personal data on social networks.
The conversation between the two allegedly took place, according to the court, on April 13. The day before, Malucelli had determined that Appio should analyze one of several requests for suspicion against him, presented by the MPF. The judge had been ignoring such requests and stated that the suspect was Malucelli himself, due to the fact that the judge’s son was a partner of Moro and his wife, federal deputy Rosângela Moro (União-PR), and was also dating the couple’s daughter.
Several acts by Appio, which called into question some of Moro’s decisions considered crucial to the operation, were overturned by Malucelli, who was Lava Jato’s rapporteur at TRF4.
In March, for example, Marcelo Malucelli twice revoked, on the same day, arrest warrants issued by Appio against money changer Alberto Youssef, a key character and the first whistleblower in the operation. Based on a new representation from the Revenue, the judge stated that he was hiding amounts that he should return and had an uncertain address. The judge had him released because the MPF had not been consulted and because he was monitored by an ankle bracelet.
Earlier, still in March, Malucelli also overturned a decision by Appio that had determined that former federal deputy Eduardo Cunha (PTB) deliver six luxury cars that were blocked, but still in his power. The judge considered that the judge did not have the competence to decide on the assets, since the case against Cunha had been referred to the Electoral Justice. Previously, Appio took the same measure against former PT minister Antonio Palocci, to return five vehicles.
Appio’s most incisive action against Moro and Dallagnol also occurred in March, when he took the testimony of lawyer Rodrigo Tacla Duran. Accused of laundering money for Odebrecht, Duran has been accusing the two of extortion since 2017. He claims that, in 2016, he deposited US$613,000 to Marlus Arns, who was supposedly linked to Rosângela Moro, as the first installment of a total of US$5 million, so that he would have a plea deal accepted by Dallagnol and Moro.
The deputy and senator have always denied these accusations, which were rejected by the MPF for lack of evidence. The case ended up at the Federal Supreme Court (STF), where Minister Ricardo Lewandowski, already retired, ordered the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to deepen the investigations, on the suspicion that Moro and Dallagnol would still be interfering in Lava Jato.
In April, however, Marcelo Malucelli ended up moving away from Lava Jato’s rapporteur at TRF4 after the National Council of Justice (CNJ) decided to investigate his conduct in the Tacla Duran case. That month, TRF4 even announced that the judge had restored the lawyer’s preventive detention. For the national justice inspector, Luís Felipe Salomão, the order contradicted Lewandowski’s decision to suspend investigations against Tacla Duran.
The clashes between Appio and TRF4, however, continued. On May 18th, the new Lava Jato rapporteur in court, Loraci Flores, overturned a decision by Appio to take a new statement from Palocci. The ex-minister’s defense wanted to re-discuss his whistleblowing agreement, claiming that it would not have been made spontaneously. The judge considered that Appio did not have competence, since the complaint was signed with the TRF4.
On the 16th, another judge, Carlos Eduardo Thompson Flores Lenz, annulled Appio’s decision that had annulled Moro’s acts against the former governor of Rio de Janeiro Sérgio Cabral, including a sentence of 14 years in prison. Appio accepted the defense’s allegations that Moro had acted with partiality, but Thompson Flores considered that he could not have dispatched before hearing the MPF and evaluating his own suspicion to decide on the case.
Appio, however, maintained Lava Jato’s review line. On the 19th, Appio summoned Dallagnol to testify about his connection with Walter José Mathias Junior, the attorney in charge of Tacla Duran’s cases, who always rejected the lawyer’s accusations. With the judge’s removal, it is not known whether the interrogation, scheduled for June 19, will be maintained. Who takes over the processes now is Gabriela Hardt, substitute judge of the 13th Federal Court and who always acted in line with Moro, when he was a judge.
This Monday (22nd), shortly before being removed by TRF4, Appio also ordered the Federal Police to reopen investigations into a clandestine wiretap found by Youssef in his cell in 2014, when he was arrested at the corporation’s superintendence in Paraná. There is a fear of annulment of the money changer’s entire accusation, if it were considered that he had been illegally recorded during his preventive detention.
Last week, in a dispatch, Appio expressed complaints about TRF4. He wrote that all Marcelo Malucelli’s decisions should be annulled, due to his proximity to Moro, and that the new rapporteur, Loraci Flores, has ignored this issue.
“This federal court, therefore (and aiming to avoid a new procedural turmoil in appeals involving the notorious Lava-Jato operation and its consequences in the Brazilian business and political environment, in a way that even the presidential elections were impacted by the judicial decisions taken) sought together to the rapporteur of the Lava-Jato processes in the 8th appellate group of the TRF-4, the necessary lights to decide well and prudently in the cases”, wrote the judge.
In the same document, he still complains of working “practically alone” after being forced to hand over six employees from the 13th Court to the TRF4.
Since his removal, on the night of this Monday (22), Appio has withdrawn and refused to make statements to the press. Allies consider that he still has a chance to turn the game around, especially with the superior courts of Brasilia – appeals against his removal to the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), the STF or the CNJ.
The latest statements were given in an interview with GloboNews, on Monday afternoon. Appio admitted that he connected to the Federal Justice system with the identification “LUL22”, saying that it was a way of protesting the arrest of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 2018.
He also said that, in conducting the case, he wants to make a “reckoning with the truth”. “It is time to clean up everything that happened. If there were illegalities, they will be prosecuted and judged in due time and manner”, he said.
Appio also criticized the way in which the investigations reached the contractors and recommended, several times, the reading of the book “A War against Brazil”recently launched by Emílio Odebrecht, in which the businessman says he was forced to denounce the construction company’s corruption schemes.