Executive testimony “unites” government officials and opposition at Covid’s CPI

Senators discuss before CPI meeting

Senators discuss before CPI meeting| Photo: Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senad

The participation of businessman Roberto Pereira Ramos Junior, director of the FIB Bank, who speaks to the CPI of Covid do Senate this Wednesday (25), is being marked by criticism from the senators to the statements made by the deponent. In a rare consensus between parliamentarians for and against Jair Bolsonaro’s government, CPI members contest Ramos’ statements that they consider contradictory or insufficient to clarify the facts.

“This citizen is offending the Senate,” the government congressman Jorginho Mello (PL-SC) said. The vice president of the collegiate, Randolfe Rodrigues (Rede-AP), who opposes Bolsonaro, said that Ramos’ speech is “scabrous”, but qualified the testimony as one of the most important since the beginning of the CPI.

Ramos was called to speak to the CPI due to the fact that the FIB Bank was cited as guarantor of the contract between Need Medicines and the Ministry of Health, in the negotiation for the acquisition of Covaxin vaccines, produced by the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech. The contract ended up not being carried out. Despite its name, FIB Bank is not a bank – Ramos defined the company as “a provider of personal guarantees”.

The company’s status was among the points that most motivated questions – and laughs – from parliamentarians. Ramos declared that FIB Bank has a share capital of R$7.5 billion, which astonished the senators, mainly due to the fact that he had said, shortly before, that the company was small. “A capital of R$ 7.5 billion cures any disease”, ironized Mello. Another point that aroused disputes from lawmakers was the company’s assets. The company claims to own a land whose area is equivalent to 10% of the extension of the municipality of Curitiba, and which would be budgeted at R$7 billion. The president of the CPI, Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), said he had received a suggestion from a netizen that the amount would be enough to acquire Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the UK royal family.

The senators also challenged the link between the FIB Bank and Need Medicines. Although the companies signed a high-profile partnership, as the contract between Necessidade and the Ministry was stipulated at R$1.6 billion, Ramos told the commission that he did not know Francisco Maximiano, the owner of Necessidade. He also claimed he had no information about the company’s past business. Precise, prior to the current situation, had already had its name related to corruption scandals, in an episode of the fraudulent purchase of Covid-19 rapid detection tests.

The CPI rapporteur, Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL), even asked the commission’s president, Omar Aziz, about the possibility of Ramos’ arrest, alleging that the witness was lying to the commission. Ramos speaks to the collegiate, as well as other deponents, protected by a habeas corpus granted by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) that assures him the right to remain silent in the case of questions that could incriminate him.

Aziz initially ruled out Ramos’ arrest. But he made many criticisms of the deponent. Before, the president of the CPI said: “these kind of people who were going to save Brazilians. That’s why we reached 570 thousand lost lives”.

Senator Simone Tebet (MDB-MS) claimed that the inconsistencies in Ramos’ testimony should motivate an analysis of the CPI to the Ministry of Health’s control mechanisms, which, in the opinion of the parliamentarian, did not prevent the signing of the contract that placed the FIB Bank as guarantor of Precise.

Postponement and bribe dinner

Before Wednesday’s testimony, the CPI announced a change in the session scheduled for the following day. Instead of listening to Francisco Araújo, former Health Secretary of the Federal District, the collegiate will receive José Ricardo Santana, former director of Anvisa and named as one of the participants of the “bribe dinner”, which took place in February, in which a representative of Ministry of Health would have asked for an undue advantage to close a contract for the purchase of vaccines. Araújo’s testimony will take place next week.

The CPI also approved the call for motorcycle courier Ivanildo Gonçalves da Silva. He was called to speak to the commission for having made millionaire cash withdrawals on behalf of the company VTC Log, which operates in the logistics and transport sector and is suspected of signing irregular contracts with the Ministry of Health. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.