Three servants of the Companhia de Entrepostos e Armazéns Gerais de São Paulo (Ceagesp) claim to have been threatened and coerced by the former president of the state-owned company, reserve colonel Ricardo Nascimento de Mello Araújo, to ask them to resign in May 2021. Two of them yielded to pressure and resigned
O Brazil in Fact had access to a dossier organized by the Union of Employees in Food Supply Centers of the State of São Paulo (Sindbast), with the testimony of the workers. In the reports, shown below, details of a plot classified as “horror movie” by one of the servers.
Armed men identified with police badges would have psychologically tortured the workers to make them admit guilt in an alleged scheme to steal electricity from Ceagesp and then ask for their exoneration.
It was May 6, 2021. It was past 10 am and engineer João (fictitious name to protect the worker’s identity) was impatient, sitting in the waiting room of the 91st Police Station, in Vila Leopoldina, west of São Paulo, waiting to be heard by the delegate. Next to him, his boss, retired police officer Rodrigo Manzzoni de Oliveira, who at the time held the position of manager of the Department of Engineering and Maintenance of the Companhia de Entrepostos e Armazéns Gerais de São Paulo (Ceagesp).
Two hours earlier, João, who was head of the Electrical Maintenance Section (Semae) at Ceagesp, had his routine abruptly interrupted by Manzzoni, who claimed that the engineer had been cited in a complaint about theft of electricity inside the warehouse.
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The accusation against João was that he was part of a clandestine electricity supply scheme for Ceagesp licensees, for which he would receive bribes. “As I listened, I vehemently argued that this was absurd, when I was interrupted by my superior, who said that the president was waiting for me in his office.”
The president of Ceagesp was reserve colonel Ricardo Nascimento de Mello Araújo, former commander of the Rondas Ostensivas Tobias de Aguiar (Rota) troop, appointed to the post by Bolsonaro on October 23, 2020. In 15 years working at the warehouse, João had never been noticed by the presidency of the state-owned company.
In the president’s anteroom, the engineer noticed that he was surrounded by three of Mello Araújo’s advisors, “all with police badges on display”. Then, João was forced to turn off his cell phone. When he entered the presidential office, he was again accused of leading a clandestine electricity connection scheme.
“When he allowed me to speak, I vehemently reported that it was a lie. The president of Ceagesp interrupted me saying: ‘You’d better resign.’ necessary, precisely because in all this time of service, I’ve always been zealous and have nothing to hide'”, explains João.
The engineer says he was interrupted again by Mello Araújo. “The president showed me Mr. Pedro’s employee badge (fictitious name to protect the worker’s identity). ‘This employee has already resigned’.”
“Rota kills you”
Pedro, a civil servant at Ceagesp, who worked at Semae, had started his workday, on that May 6th, at 6 am. Around 8 am, Rodrigo Manzzoni de Oliveira enters his office. “He informed me that irregularities had been found against me in my conduct, such as the theft of energy, since I had made some irregular calls to some permit holders… earning some money on the side.”
After the accusation, Pedro claims that he was taken to the presidential office “by two policemen”. “On the way, I heard the following phrase from one of the police officers: ‘You are part of a gang and you are going to sign your resignation or you are going to leave here in prison, ask for your resignation, which is the best for you and your family’ “, account.
Pedro replied: “If I were a bandit, I would rob a bank”. “There, Rota kills you”, replied the policeman, remembering the corporation that was commanded by the president of Ceagesp, Mello Araújo. In the presidential anteroom, the server heard attacks again.
“I was attacked with the following phrases: ‘you worm’ and ‘who is that thief over there?’. All uttered by advisors to the company’s presidency.” Still in the anteroom, Pedro claims to have had his cell phone taken by the police and was forced to lift his shirt to show that he was not armed.
In Mello Araújo’s office, he heard the accusation of theft of electricity and received two alternatives from the president. “Go down to the second floor (Human Resources) and sign my resignation, or leave there in jail and handcuffs, with the press and everything.”
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Pedro asked to see the content of the complaint and asked Mello Araújo why an internal inquiry was not opened to investigate the fact. “As it is a complaint, there is no need for an investigation, it is a direct dismissal”, the president would have said, according to the server.
After the threats, Pedro gave in and went to the second floor to sign the letter of resignation. In the Human Resources department, those in charge of the sector asked the police to leave the room. “However, one stood at the glass door staring at me, while the other stood at the back door of the room, banging on the door, intending to intimidate me.”
“Actually, the policeman Renato (Nobile, Executive Assistant to the Presidency) accompanied me to my sector so that I could collect my personal belongings and hand over my badge, determining, then, that I leave the company”, concluded Pedro.
“Scared and nervous, I resigned”
Electrician Antônio (fictitious name to protect the identity of the worker), who also works at Semae at Ceagesp, was the third employee cornered by Mello Araújo and his team.
When he got to his sector, there was manager Manzzoni, who had already approached João and Pedro. “He was with two other employees, both with police coats of arms, accusing me that I was favoring the theft of electricity at Ceagesp and that I had been recognized by a permit holder.”
Antônio reacted: “I’m an electrician, it’s not up to me to control who Ceagesp charges electricity from”. Manzzoni allegedly told the server that he had the documentation proving the crime and that President Mello Araújo had already given him an order. “That he wants this problem resolved, for good or ill. If it were for ill, he would leave in a van for the 91st DP.”
As with João and Pedro, Antônio was led to Mello Araújo’s office. In the anteroom, a policeman stopped him. “He told me that Pedro had resigned and that it was wise for me to do the same.”
After being searched and having his cell phone taken, Antônio made his decision. “Already very scared and nervous, I thought it best to resign, and was then sent to the personnel department. At that moment, I saw João being taken to the president’s office, but I couldn’t talk to him.”
Ceagesp opened, still in 2021, a Disciplinary Administrative Procedure (PAD) to investigate the possible theft of electricity from the state-owned company. According to the internal investigation, what existed was an apportionment agreement between permit holders, due to the absence of a measuring clock for all, a responsibility of the warehouse.
“The absence of culpability has been proven, by breaking the casual link between the agent’s conduct and the detected infraction, demonstrated through the evidence embedded in the investigative procedure records”, concludes the text of the PAD.
Justice determined that Pedro and Antônio, the servants who resigned, be readmitted by Ceagep. Both returned to the state-owned company in December last year.
O Brazil in Fact questioned Ceagesp about the accusations made by the workers. The report also questioned the state-owned company about the presence of armed men inside the warehouse. As of this writing, there has been no response. If so, the text will be updated.
The former president of Ceagesp, Ricardo Mello Araújo, was not located by the report.
Editing: Nicolau Soares
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