Former Minister of the Environment and current federal deputy Ricardo Salles (PL-SP) became a defendant for allegedly participating in a scheme to “facilitate the smuggling of forest products” and the export of illegal wood, according to a complaint from the Federal Public Ministry. (MPF) received by the 4th Federal/Criminal Court of Pará, this Monday (28).
In the complaint, the MPF points to the crimes of facilitating the practice of smuggling or embezzlement, obstruction of the inspection action of the Public Power in environmental matters and participation or promotion of a criminal organization. The then Minister would have allowed “the representation of private interests to the detriment of the public interest”.
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Products of Brazilian origin were found in the United States, without the minimum documentation for export. Transport would only have been possible thanks to the help of two officials from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama). They would have retroactively legalized five containers of wood that had arrived in purchasing countries without authorization from the agency.
Public officials, according to the MPF, issued certificates and a letter without legal value in order to release the wood that had been seized for export. The document, however, was not accepted upon entering the United States “because of its evident illegality”.
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According to the document, the release would have occurred after a meeting, in February 2020, between Ricardo Salles and representatives of the logging sector involved in the alleged scheme. After the meeting, an “almost immediate” service was given to the demands of the companies, with a technical opinion “legalizing, even with retroactive effect, thousands of cargoes shipped illegally between 2019 and 2020”.
“The highest leadership of the Ministry of the Environment and the top management of Ibama manipulated normative opinions and edited documents to, to the detriment of the primary public interest, benefit a group of timber companies and export companies that had cargoes of wood seized in the United States ”, says the MPF complaint.
In addition to Ricardo Salles, another 21 people were charged with the same crimes of passive corruption, crimes against flora and criminal organization.
On social networks, Salles said that he is certain that the “seriousness and impartiality of the Judiciary will demonstrate the fallacy contained therein”. “Prosecutors filed a complaint about the timber against me and the PM colonels who worked with me (any surprise!?!), even contradicting the conclusions of the delegate in the case. We’ll see,” he said.
Editing: Vivian Virissimo