Covaxin ‘Guarantor’ scares CPI by revealing share capital of R$7.5 billion

Executive Roberto Pereira Ramos Júnior, director of FIB Bank Garantias SA, a company that presented a letter of guarantee in the negotiation of Covaxin, surprised Covid’s CPI senators today by revealing, in a statement, that the company’s share capital is R$7 .5 billion.

The assets would be backed, according to him, with two properties, one in São Paulo and one in Paraná. Senators’ wing, however, claims that one of the lands does not exist and the other belongs to third parties.

Despite the alleged value, Júnior claimed that FIB Bank has a “small” structure. To which the president of the CPI, Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), declared: “No, repeat it, please.”

“The structure is small, but the capital is R$7.5 billion,” Junior repeated. The senators then mocked the situation, including the ruling Jorginho Mello (PL-SC).

Aziz continued: “To say that a company that has R$7.5 billion in capital is a small company, I no longer know what is medium and large”. The commission’s vice president, Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), commented that “not even the most valuable mansion in the world” would be valued at an amount as large as R$7.5 billion.

The lawmakers are investigating whether the FIB Bank —which is not a bank, despite its name— was used with the intention of masking irregularities involving Need Medicines, intermediary in the agreement to purchase 20 million doses of Covaxin. The contract was signed between the Ministry of Health and the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech in February this year — it ended up being suspended months later, due to investigations by the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission and the MPF (Federal Public Ministry).

Junior has also been asked to explain why the company was registered in the name of two people who claim to have no relationship with the company. Both file lawsuits against FIB Bank.

During the testimony, opposition senators showed a video with a report by the seller Geraldo Rodrigues Machado, a citizen from Alagoas who is trying to prove in court that he never participated in the corporate structure — supposedly, his CPF was used improperly.

In July, a Folha report showed that the FIB Bank was sued in court due to suspicions of fraud. In addition to Geraldo Rodrigues Machado, a woman identified as Alexandra Pereira de Melo would appear as a former partner of the company. The citizen also claims that she never had any connection with the firm represented by Ramos Júnior.

“a citizen [Geraldo Rodrigues Machado] is being harmed. Everyone thinks he is a billionaire, and he is a simple worker who is being deceived and cheated, like many others in Brazil,” said Omar Aziz.

Jorginho Mello said he was embarrassed for witnessing what he called “picking”, but he pointed out that, according to his understanding, there was an attempt to carry out a coup in the government.

Simone Tebet (MDB-MS), who is part of the independent wing, pointed out that the Ministry of Health was involved in negotiations with suspicious suppliers and should be charged for this. During the recess, she was appointed by the rapporteur Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL) to deepen the investigation in relation to the Covaxin contract. In his assessment, the properties that make up the supposed share capital “either do not exist or are in the name of third parties”.

In the negotiations for the acquisition of Covaxin, the FIB Bank acted as a financial guarantee provider so that the contract between the government and Need Medicines was signed. The value of the “guarantee” was R$ 80.7 million (5% of the total contracted, R$ 1.6 billion).

The guarantee was presented outside the rules and within the term provided for in the contract signed in February.

Under the agreement, the guarantee in the amount of US$ 15 million (R$ 80.7 million) was to be given by one of three possible modalities: collateral in cash or in public debt bonds; guarantee insurance; and bank guarantee.

FIB Bank’s letter of guarantee, however, consists of a guarantee of the personal type, described as “trust guarantee”.

The company’s website itself informs that the service provided is a “trusted guarantee”, which consists of a “personal guarantee, whether from an individual or legal entity”.

According to Júnior, the FIB Bank received R$ 350 thousand from Need Medicines in this case.

FIB Bank’s revenue in 2020 was around R$ 1 million, he informed. This year, so far, almost R$ 650,000.

In their testimony, senators also drew attention to the fact that the FIB Bank does not pay IPTU (Tax on Building and Urban Territorial Property) referring to the land that would serve as backing for the social capital. Due to a land payment process, some senators said, the former partners would have to pay the tax estimated at around R$ 35 million a year. However, these died — one in 2017 and another in 2020.

Randolfe said that a lawsuit at the São Paulo Board of Trade “clarifies that several corporate acts were carried out by FIB Bank, disregarding the death of the majority shareholder”.

“The problem is not that they are dead. It is part of life to die. The problem is that they made transfers… Due to this tenant relationship, a letter of guarantee was issued. They made a movement of the company with the FIB Bank”, declared the vice of the CPI.

Asked about the matter, Júnior exercised the right to remain silent.

The performance of FIB Bank has also been challenged by the Attorney General’s Office of the National Treasury, in the guarantees it has provided to taxpayers who have been subject to tax foreclosures.

In addition, in the private sphere, the FIB has not honored the letters of guarantee presented in private businesses, motivating lawsuits, according to part of the CPI senators.

Senators’ wing suspected of hidden partner

Another questioning point of the CPI about FIB Bank is a supposed hidden partner of the company, Marcos Tolentino da Silva. He has already had the summons approved by the commission, but he has not yet had his deposition scheduled.

In the application presented for the call, the vice president of the CPI, Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), points out that the address of a broadcaster in Tolentino, for example, would be the same as that of one of the two shareholders of FIB Bank, Pico do Juazeiro Participações.

Another company shareholder of FIB Bank would have the same telephone number as the law firm of Tolentino in São Paulo.

Still, a collection action filed in court by a construction company, adds Randolfe, indicates that Tolentino would be the real owner of companies in the name of Ricardo Benetti, linked to Pico do Juazeiro.

Today at the CPI, Júnior denied that Tolentino is a partner at FIB Bank or has any relationship with him. Despite this, Tolentino has an institutional email from FIB Bank and a power of attorney from Ricardo Benetti, one of the company’s shareholders, senators said.

The senators still suspect that Tolentino is close to the leader of the government of Jair Bolsonaro (no party) in the Chamber, Ricardo Barros (PP-PR).

In testimony to the CPI, federal deputy Luis Miranda (DEM-DF) and his brother, Luis Ricardo Miranda, a civil servant at the Ministry of Health, denounced suspected irregularities involving the Covaxin contract.

Upon hearing a complaint about the case, according to the Miranda brothers, Bolsonaro said that Ricardo Barros could be involved in the “roll”. The government leader denies any wrongdoing.

Covid’s CPI also approved the breaking of phone secrets, banking, tax and telematics of the FIB bank since January 2020 to date.