BRASILIA – Former Minister of Education Milton Ribeiro gave the go-ahead for contracts for federal school works to be negotiated in exchange for bribes to pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Mourasaid to Estadão construction industry entrepreneur Ailson Souto da Trindade, candidate for state deputy for the PP in Pará. The agreement provided that the cash, according to Trindade, would be hidden in the wheel of a pickup truck to be taken from Belém (PA) to Goiânia (GO), where the pastors’ church is located. The bribe charged was BRL 5 million.
The complaint brings new elements to the investigation that is being processed under secrecy in the Federal Supreme Court (STF) for indications of interference by Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in the investigation against the former Minister of Education. The case has already resulted in the arrest of Milton Ribeiro and two pastors. The police investigation was opened after the Estadão reveal, in March, the existence of a “parallel office” at the MEC controlled by Gilmar and Arilton to facilitate access to the folder. Mayors reported that pastors charged bribes in cash, buying Bibles and even gold to release funds.
The businessman is the 12th person to report a corruption scheme in the folder. In a recorded interview given to the Estadão, Trindade claimed to have heard from the then minister, at the MEC, on January 13 of last year, that public works would be guaranteed to him. According to the businessman’s account, the minister would have said that he would need in return to “help” the pastors’ church. The settlement, he says, was then proposed by Pastor Gilmar: the transfer of R$ 5 million in cash.
“It worked like this: the minister held a meeting with all the mayors (at the MEC building, January 13, 2021). Then there was the cocktail party, upstairs. There, we talked, we had this conversation with the minister. I didn’t even know who the minister was. He introduced himself: ‘I’m Milton, the Minister of Education, and Gilmar has already given me what he proposed to you and I need to get your company to win bids, to facilitate bids. In return you help the church. Pastor Gilmar will talk to you about all this’, reports the businessman.
The bribe would be masked through a fictitious contract signed between the church of Gilmar and the company of Trindade. “They said: ‘there is a proposal for you to do this (the works)’. Then I said: ‘what proposal?’. ‘Well, we need to renovate some churches and we also need to build some temples, in Maranhão, Pará, and also other places. So we need R$ 100 million to do that’. Then I said: ‘but what will I get in return? How will it happen? Will the church hire my company?’ ‘No, we make a contract, understand? Make the contract with the company, the church hires your company and I can arrange for your company to carry out the works of the federal government’”, Ailton would have said, as the businessman narrated.
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Trindade is a candidate for state deputy in Pará for the PP and is responsible for the crime of embezzlement after being accused of applying scams with the promise of releasing loans to beneficiaries of Bolsa Família. He says that he has never been summoned to court and that is why he has not yet appealed. He also claims that there is no electoral impediment.
The dates of the meetings reported by the businessman match his registration at the ministry, in Brasília, with photos on social networks and with the agenda of Milton Ribeiro and the pastors. Part of the negotiation would have taken place during a lunch with mayors, after the meeting at the MEC, in a traditional restaurant in the Federal District. Then finished with Gilmar and Arilton at the office of the Evangelical Church Assembly of God – Ministry Christ for All, in Goiânia. The report confirmed the participation of four mayors at the lunch.
For the works to be guaranteed, the first transfer should be almost immediate. “They wanted R$5 million in two days. I said: ‘but I can’t do this kind of business, I’m a businessman, I’m not going to do something like that without a contract’. And they wanted me to put it on a truck tire and send it there. I said: ‘no, guys, let’s take it into account because how will I know… if it doesn’t work out, how will I prove that I paid?’ Then I got scared of that kind of deal. Then they wanted 5 million right away and after 15 days they wanted another R$ 50 million”, he said.
The document dealt with the hiring of AST Empreendimentos Imobiliários by the Evangelical Church Assembly of God – Ministry Christ for All, from Goiânia. AST was opened by Trindade in 2006, in Belém, and is now based in São Paulo. “The purpose of this contract is the supply of manpower in services in the construction and renovation sector (…) This contract is for an indefinite period, effective as of its signature”, say the clauses, which make reference, but do not specify values.
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The report had access to the file sent to Botelho Advogados, a law firm in Belém that at the time provided services for the company in Trindade. The document’s metadata indicates that it was created on January 19 of last year, six days after the meeting at the Ministry of Education. Sought to provide the name of the sender of the file, the office claimed that it could not disclose for ethical and contractual reasons.
The first commitment Milton Ribeiro, on August 13, was reported on the public agenda as “breakfast with mayors – political alignment”. Pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura appear in the list of gifts. Entrepreneur Trindade is not listed as a participant in the meeting, but presented photos taken during the meeting. Official visitor records at the MEC show that he entered the building at 9:06 am that day.
The director of the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE), Marcelo Ponte, also participated in the meeting. After lunch with mayors and before heading out to Goiânia, the businessman says that he was taken by the pastors to the headquarters of the FNDE – an agency with a billion-dollar budget controlled by Centrão and a target of corruption allegations. “They took me to the FNDE, another building. He was a young boy, I don’t know if he was president or director. They said: ‘look, it’s all right’, but they didn’t have a document proving that they would have the works”, he says.
After the scandal was revealed, there was widespread concern about the unfolding of the case. Trindade says that she called Pastor Arilton Moura asking that his name be spared, as he did not continue the scheme. he showed the Estadão the print of an audio call made to Arilton that lasted about 6 minutes. The call, he said, was not recorded.
The investigation into this case was sent to the STF on suspicion of interference by Jair Bolsonaro in another investigation front. Milton Ribeiro told his daughter, in a call tapped by the Federal Police, that he had been alerted by the president about the possibility of being the target of a search warrant as part of the investigation into the parallel office. at home”, reported the former minister in connection with his daughter.
According to Ailson da Trindade, Pastor Arilton was also prepared for the arrival of the feds. “I called for him. I asked what was going on, ‘your name is there’, ‘how is it going to be, if you’re not going to say anything about my company…’. (Arilton would have said:) ‘Don’t worry we won’t say anything, ok? We’ve already agreed with the president and the minister, ok?’, who was Milton, right?. ‘The minister is already arranging everything and we will keep quiet, so I’m waiting for the Federal Police to come to my house at any moment, but everything is already… everything is resolved, everything is schematized’”.
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This Wednesday, 21, journalists Andréia Sadi and Julia Duailibi, from GloboNews, reported that PF delegate Bruno Calandrini, responsible for the investigation into the parallel office at MEC, summoned two delegates from the top of the corporation. The interrogation will investigate suspicions of interference in the investigation against Milton Ribeiro.
The PF inquiry was opened after the Estadão reveal the existence of the parallel office at the MEC. Mayors told the newspaper that they only got funds for works, such as building schools and day care centers, by paying bribes to pastors.
Access to the minister was also only possible by agreement with the religious. Photos show that the religious dispatched from inside the minister’s office. Ribeiro was the fourth Minister of Education in the Bolsonaro government and reached the position appointed by First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro. He was only fired after the series of reports revealed the scheme.
Lawyer Daniel Bialski, who defends Milton Ribeiro, said that the former minister “absolutely denies this type of accusation, frivolous, lying and made with electoral intent and interest”. “This did not exist and if that person materializes his speech, he will be prosecuted for slander,” he said.
Sought after, the defenses of pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura did not respond.
Ailson Souto da Trindade is a businessman who works in the real estate and construction sectors. Born in Pará, he transferred his company’s headquarters to São Paulo. He does not deny that his heritage and political connections in Belém have made him someone who lends money at interest to politicians.
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He signed up to run for state deputy for the PP. According to him, he decided to make the complaint because intimidation and threats from former allies became unsustainable. He says that family members have been approached by interlocutors of the pastors and that he needed to strengthen his personal security.
Trindade is one of the richest candidates, with an unclear equity evolution. In 2012, he ran for a councilor for the city of Porto de Moz in Pará and declared R$15,000 in goods. Now, it is BRL 448 million, of which BRL 390 million in soybean crops, BRL 39 million in cryptocurrencies and BRL 9 million in paintings and jewelry.