This week, former Minister of Education Milton Ribeiro was arrested – and later released – in a Federal Police operation that investigates corruption and influence peddling in the portfolio. His defense denies wrongdoing.
The MEC scandal, as it became known, was revealed in March. That same month, after the opening of the investigation by the PF to investigate the case, Milton Ribeiro left his briefcase.
In June 9 – already out of the ministry and before being arrested – Milton Ribeiro told a family member that he had received a call from Jair Bolsonaro (PL) warning him that he had a “hunch”.
“He [o presidente da República] thinks they’re going to do a search and seizure… at home…”, said Milton Ribeiro on June 9.
Last WednesdayJune 22, the former education minister was effectively the target of searches in the Acesso Pago operation, launched by the PF to investigate the scandal. He and four other people – including pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura, suspected of participating in the scheme – were arrested.
all were released on Thursday (23)by order of the judge Ney Bello, of the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region (TRF-1).
Still on Thursday, hours after the release order, the Federal Public Ministry asked for an investigation into Bolsonaro for alleged interference in the investigations into the case, and Judge Renato Borelli – who authorized the operation and the arrests – sent the request to the Federal Supreme Court (STF).
Bolsonaro family lawyer Frederick Wassef told journalist Andréia Sadi that he was authorized by the president to tell the press that he “did not interfere with the PF” and that he has “nothing to do with these recordings”.
Review the details of the chronology of the scandal at the MEC below:
The Estado de S. Paulo newspaper revealed, in an article, the existence of a “parallel office” within the MEC. The group was composed of pastors who controlled the Ministry’s agenda and even the allocation of public resources from the portfolio, in closed meetings.
The religious group acted as intermediaries with mayors who sought federal resources from the portfolio.
Days later, the newspaper “Folha de S.Paulo” released an audio of a meeting in which Ribeiro said that, at the request of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), he transferred funds to municipalities indicated by Pastor Gilmar Silva.
March 22: Folha reveals audio in which minister says he prioritizes friends of Pastor Gilmar at Bolsonaro’s request
Three days later, the newspaper “Folha de São Paulo” released an audio in which the Minister of Education, Milton Ribeiro, says he is responding to a request by Jair Bolsonaro to transfer funds from the ministry to municipalities indicated by pastors.
After the audio was revealed, Ribeiro left the command of the Ministry of Education. The inspection was a suggestion brought to the plenary by Minister Vital do Rêgo after the denunciations brought by the press. The suggestion was unanimously accepted. Remember the audio:
In audio, Education Minister says Bolsonaro asked to prioritize release of funds for pastor friends
March 24: Bolsonaro says ‘put your face on fire’ for Milton
In a live broadcast on social networks, President Jair Bolsonaro defended the permanence of Milton Ribeiro as minister.
“Milton, a rare thing for me to talk about here. I put my face on fire for Milton, my whole face on fire for Milton. They are cowardly with him”, declared Bolsonaro.
March 25: PF opens inquiry to investigate alleged irregularities
On that day, the Federal Police informed the Federal Supreme Court (STF) of the opening of an investigation to investigate Milton Ribeiro for allegedly favoring pastors in the distribution of ministry funds.
The investigation into the former minister’s conduct was requested to the STF by the Attorney General’s Office. The day before, Minister Cármen Lúcia had authorized the investigation, considering the facts narrated to be very serious.
March 28: Government officializes Milton Ribeiro’s departure from MEC
At the end of the month, the government announced, in an extra edition of the “Official Journal of the Union”, the departure of Milton Ribeiro, who was the fourth Minister of Education in the Jair Bolsonaro government to leave the post.
Before the meeting, Bolsonaro had already been convinced by allies to remove the minister due to political attrition for the government in an election year, according to Valdo Cruz’s blog at the time.
June 9: Milton Ribeiro says he received a call from Bolsonaro
The former Minister of Education said in a conversation with a daughter that he received a call, on June 9, from Jair Bolsonaro in which the president said he feared being hit by the Federal Police investigation against Ribeiro. Listen below:
Milton Ribeiro says he received a call from Bolsonaro about search and seizure
June 22: Milton Ribeiro is arrested
The former Minister of Education was arrested in Santos for the PF operation, which was eventually christened Access Paid. In addition to him, pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura were also arrested.
Ribeiro’s arrest was determined by the Justice because of his alleged involvement in a scheme to release funds from the MEC. The ex-minister is investigated on suspicion of passive corruption; prevarication (when a public official ‘unduly delays or fails to perform an official act’, or if he performs it ‘against the express provision of law, to satisfy a personal interest or feeling’); administrative law (when a public servant defends particular interests with the public administration body where he performs his duties); and influence peddling.
Video shows the moment when former minister Milton Ribeiro is arrested by the PF around 7 am
At the time, his wife, Myrian Ribeiro, said that he “was already aware” that he would be targeted by the Federal Police.
“He didn’t want to believe it, but he… he knew. To have rumors from above (…) it’s because the deal was already right”, he said in a telephone intercept made by the PF authorized by the Justice.
June 22: After arrest, Pastor Arilton Moura said he would ‘destroy everyone’ if family was affected
Pastor arrested in MEC scandal says he would “destroy everyone” if family was affected
One of the pastors investigated and arrested, Arilton Moura said after the arrest that he would “destroy everyone” if the investigation reached his family.
In a phone call intercepted by the Federal Police, the pastor spoke with a lawyer, stating that he had already been detained by the PF when he arrived at the corporation’s headquarters in Pará.
“I need you to call my wife, calm my wife. Because if there is any problem with my little girl, I will destroy everyone.”
In response, the lawyer said: “Don’t worry. Get in prayer to calm down and we’ll take care of things around here”.
It is unclear who he was referring to when he spoke of a little girl.
June 23 – Judge orders the release of Milton Ribeiro
Judge Ney Bello, from the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region (TRF-1), granted an injunction and canceled the preventive detention of Milton Ribeiro and four other prisoners in the operation. They were:
- Gilmar Santos
- Arilton Moura
- Helder Diego da Silva Bartolomeu
- Luciano de Freitas Mousse
The decision complied with a habeas corpus presented by the former minister’s defense. Prior to that, the judge on duty Morais da Rocha had rejected the same request, claiming that the defense had not presented the documents that showed illegal constraint in prison.
June 23 – MPF points out Bolsonaro’s interference and judge sends case to STF
Judge Renato Boreli, of the 15th Federal Court of Justice in Brasília, responded to the request of the Federal Public Ministry and sent the investigation into the former Minister of Education Milton Ribeiro to the Federal Supreme Court.
The MP made the request because he saw evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro may have interfered in the investigation.. In the STF, the rapporteur will be the minister Cármen Lúcia.
Judge sends inquiry on Milton Ribeiro to STF on suspicion of Bolsonaro interference
The MPF justified the request based on telephone interceptions by Milton Ribeiro that indicate the possibility of leaking the findings of the case. According to the MPF, there are indications that there was a leak of the police operation and possible illicit interference by Bolsonaro.