The lawyer and businessman Marcos Tolentino da Silva, who will be heard at Covid’s CPI this Wednesday (1), has a plea agreement signed under Operation Ararath, in Mato Grosso, in which he pledged to pay R$ 3 million to public coffers to obtain a court pardon.
Of that amount, a third was earmarked in 2020 by a federal judge to build a Covid-19 testing laboratory in the state.
Tolentino, who owns the TV channel Rede Brasil, became a defendant in 2016 accused of money laundering in a lawsuit that addresses the purchase of vacancies in the State Audit Court.
In 2018, he signed an agreement ratified by the courts in which the Federal Public Ministry stipulated that he could not leave the country without judicial authorization. In 2014, one of his addresses had been searched by the Federal Police in Ararath — he was not arrested.
The businessman will be heard at the CPI due to the suspicion that he is a hidden partner of FIB Bank Garantias, a company used by Precise Medicines to offer a letter of guarantee to the Ministry of Health in negotiations for the purchase of the Indian vaccine Covaxin.
Report from sheet in July it showed that the address of Rede Brasil de TV is the same as that of two FIB Bank shareholder companies. Both Tolentino and FIB Bank deny the occult society hypothesis.
The businessman is a friend of federal deputy Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), a member of parliament allied with President Jair Bolsonaro and investigated by the CPI for alleged involvement in the negotiation of vaccines.
In Operation Ararath, Tolentino was involved in negotiating the sale of a relay for his TV in Cuiabá, which took place in 2009.
According to a complaint filed by the Federal Public Ministry in the process in which he became a defendant, two of his companies, Paz Administradora and Benetti Prestadora de Serviços, received in 2009 almost R$ 3 million (in values at the time) paid by firms that are part of a ” clandestine bank” operating in the state, Ararath’s main target.
This “clandestine bank”, according to the indictment, illegally carried out financial transactions, such as loans and interest collection, and was allegedly supplied with money from the diversion of state resources. The Federal Public Ministry pointed out links of the alleged scheme with former governors Silval Barbosa, now a whistleblower, and Blairo Maggi, the target of a separate complaint, who has already been locked up in court.
The indictment points out that the amount was paid to companies in Tolentino as a result of a financial negotiation for a vacancy in the Court of Auditors. Prosecutors said that one of the council’s vacancies in the agency was “bought” from a member who would retire, favoring Sérgio Ricardo de Almeida, former president of the Legislative Assembly, who would be nominated for the post.
The complaint says that the negotiation ended up undone, and as a way of “returning” the money for bribes previously paid by Almeida, the companies of the “clandestine bank” paid for him the purchase of Rede Mundial de Televisão, from Tolentino.
Prosecutors claim that third-party checks were deposited into the accounts of the lawyer’s companies and that this made it difficult to track the funds.
The businessman was accused of “disguising the origin, nature and destination of the values” that began to circulate in his companies and which originate in money obtained illegally. “The payment was made in such a way that, at the very least, it would embarrass the recipient,” the prosecutors wrote.
In his collaboration agreement, the businessman said that he received from Almeida post-dated checks issued by third parties, with which he had no commercial relationship, as a form of payment for the sale of the station. He also said he had been threatened by the counsel of the Court of Auditors, who is out of office.
The process has not yet been sentenced and remains confidential. According to the Federal Court, it is still in the stage of due diligence, which precedes the final allegations.
Tolentino, 56, acquired, in 2006, the stations that make up Rede Brasil, which he refers to as one of the largest TV networks in the country. The channel, which spends much of its programming showing old movies and series, has in its team of presenters the former senator Magno Malta (PL-ES) and the federal deputy Alexandre Frota (PSDB-SP).
On TV, the businessman has already been a judge on Raul Gil’s program and, as a lawyer, he works with the purchase and sale of court orders. In politics, he is affiliated with the Patriota em Minas party and even ran as a candidate for the Chamber of Deputies in 2014, but withdrew.
In addition to Ricardo Barros, another politician he is close to is federal deputy Celso Russomanno (Republicanos-SP), a former candidate for mayor of São Paulo.
The two are partners, and the politician has already headed the station’s board of directors and presented programs on Rede Brasil.
In 2016, The leaf showed that Russomanno owned a helicopter in partnership with the company Paz Administradora de Ativos, which belongs to Tolentino’s wife, Vanessa.
The report sought out Marcos Tolentino to talk about his collaboration in Mato Grosso. The entrepreneur replied only: “[O caso] it runs in secrecy of Justice, therefore without the possibility of any information or comment on my part”.
In contact with the sheet in 2020, he had stated that he cooperated with the Federal Public Ministry “for the correct eludication of the facts”. He said, at the time, that the buyer of the TV station had paid off the deal with values ”with original defects”, which did not involve him in any way. It also stated that it would seek compensation for damages in the civil sphere.
Sergio Ricardo de Almeida has denied the suspicions to justice and accused the businessman of manipulation. He claims that the whistleblower used false documents to justify millions that reached the companies’ accounts.
Understand Operation Ararath
- Often compared to Lava Jato, Operation Ararath was launched in 2013 in Mato Grosso, initially focusing on the activity of “clandestine banks” (companies that lent money without having authorization to do so).
- Just like the operation originated in Paraná, from the denunciations its field of investigation was expanded, reaching links with public affairs in the state. A task force at the Federal Public Ministry was formed to work on the cases in 2014.
- State officials such as former governors Blairo Maggi and Silval Barbosa, former state secretaries and the current mayor of Cuiabá, Emanuel Pinheiro (MDB), were also accused.