The Public Ministry of Rio Grande do Norte (MPRN) launched this Thursday (1st) the “Banner” operation. The objective was to break up a scheme of embezzlement of public resources in Macau, in the interior of Rio Grande do Norte. The mayor was arrested and removed from office for 90 days. A businessman suspected of participating in the fraud was also temporarily arrested. The action had the support of the Military Police. In all, 9 prosecutors from Justice, 23 MPRN employees and 64 military police officers served two temporary arrest warrants and 16 search and seizure warrants in the cities of Macau and Natal.
According to the MPRN, the councilor and the businessmen investigated in the Banner operation were criminally associated to develop a fraud scheme for bidding procedures in the Municipality of Macau, for the purpose of diverting public funds and providing them with the perception of undue advantages. In addition, the agency is already investigating the possibility of committing the same crimes in other cities in Rio Grande do Norte. The mayor of Macau and the arrested businessman are at the disposal of justice. The material seized in the operation must be analyzed.
The investigations of the “Banner” operation began in July 2021. At the time, an anonymous complaint pointed to the completion of four bidding waiver procedures in favor of a communication company. The owner of this company was the biggest supplier of the campaign of the councilor, current president of the City Council, having provided 61.56% of the resources.
Also, during the initial investigations, the MPRN found that, in 2021 alone, the Macau City Council signed five bidding waivers and an in-person auction with the company of the main supplier of the President of the Legislative House’s campaign. In addition, as they are very different from each other, the objects of contracting called the attention of the MPRN, covering the supply of air-conditioning devices, films, graphic services, audio equipment for recording, foodstuffs and office material.
In these bids, the winning company participated in the contests with the same competing companies, winning in all of them. The MPRN also found that the company that won the contracts is headquartered in a residential property, without any visible aspect denoting the existence of legal personality. In the same way, in the two companies that always lost the bids, there are also no signs indicating that they were really legal entities.
For the MPRN, the three competing companies present an aspect of irregularity, since typical characteristics of fictitious or “ghost” companies are perceptible. These companies only exist in the legal sphere, but they do not actually work for the purposes for which they are intended, and are commonly devoid of physical space.
The MPRN has also verified the existence of fractional transfers of amounts by the City Council to service providers. This payment technique in amounts lower than the limit established by Organs regulatory bodies for the communication and registration of the operation, commonly of illicit origin, is used with the aim of circumventing the inspection.