The federal government paid R$124 million to companies that use helicopters suspected of guaranteeing logistics in illegal mines on indigenous land in the Amazon. Of this amount, R$ 75 million (60.5%) were paid in the two years and nine months of the Jair Bolsonaro government.
An operation by ANAC (National Civil Aviation Agency), with the participation of the Federal Police, support from Ibama and coordination of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, seized or interdicted 66 aircraft suspected of being involved in mining on Yanomami land, the largest in Roraima. from Brazil.
A sheet obtained the documents of the seizure of nine helicopters, made on 26 August. The details of these seizures and the cross-referencing made by the report with data from aircraft registrations and payments made by the federal government show an alleged double game by people associated with air transport companies.
The Anac action took place on the premises of the Poços Artesianos Falls, in Boa Vista. One of the partners at Cataratas, Rodrigo Martins de Mello, is also one of the owners of Icaraí Turismo Táxi Aéreo. During the inspection, Anac and PF agents found a pilot and a partner from Emar Táxi Aéreo. Part of the irregular helicopters is operated by Tarp Táxi Aéreo.
The four companies receive or received federal public funds. The most significant portion of payments is from the Ministry of Health, for indigenous health purposes.
Aircraft and pilots suspected of supplying gold mines are linked to companies that receive public money to transport health and indigenous teams, including the Yanomami from Roraima.
Payments have taken place since 2014, with intensification from 2016 and in Bolsonaro’s management. Indigenous health concentrates almost all payments.
The total amount, R$124 million, is registered on the federal government’s Transparency Portal. A small part was allocated to companies by Codevasf – Company for the Development of the São Francisco and Parnaíba Valleys (R$ 506 thousand), Army (R$ 6,500), Anac (R$ 4 thousand) and Embrapa (R$ 3 .6 thousand).
The Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health uses land, river and air to transport assistance teams to indigenous territories, according to the Ministry of Health.
“The DSEIs [distritos sanitários especiais indígenas] they sign contracts with several companies to meet their logistical needs, as recommended by law,” said the ministry, in a statement.
Codevasf held a tender for aircraft charter and contracted the lowest price, with the service being performed regularly, he said. The Army did not respond. Anac’s payments are fee refunds, according to the agency. Embrapa Roraima hired the company Cataratas to maintain an artesian well. “The service was properly provided,” he said in a note.
The operation on the premises of the Poços Artesianos Falls resulted in an arrest in flagrante, the indictment by the PF of the arrested man and the indictment of one of the owners, Rodrigo Mello, who appeared at the scene after being contacted by the authorities.
IBAMA was called upon due to the presence of a large amount of material associated with environmental crimes, mainly gallons of fuel — the so-called cores, in the universe of illegal mining.
There were also engines, machinery used in mining, large-caliber hoses, drums and quadricycles. And a quantity of ore, which will still pass for expertise.
Anac inspectors found irregularities in the nine seized aircraft. The most striking change is the removal of rear seats and replacement with metal or plywood structures. This makes it possible to “transport fuel and machinery to the mining areas”, according to the records of the operation.
Seized equipment indicates crossing points near the National Forest, “a place that is used as a support point for illegal mining in the Yanomami indigenous land”, as stated in the documents.
“All the aircraft were out of character, with the rear seats removed. Carots of 50 liters would be taken to mines in Yanomami territory,” he told sheet Chief of Police Celso Paiva, from the Federal Police in Roraima, responsible for the open inquiry.
Mello, owner of Cataratas, is the target of other investigations by the PF into illegal mining on Yanomami land. He is suspected of acting in guaranteeing logistics at open points in the Amazon.
Between 2014 and 2018, Cataratas received R$8.6 million from the federal government. Afterwards, Icaraí took the lead in the transfers: R$ 30.6 million between 2018 and 2021.
TO sheet, in a note signed by the lawyer Cláudio Dalledone, Mello stated that all the contracts of his companies were fully fulfilled “in light of the inspection bodies”. There was no irregularity in the bidding or execution, according to the defense.
Aircraft with expired certificates were not flying, but on the ground, the note says. One of the helicopters was leased to Mello to attempt to rescue victims of a plane crash on Yanomami land, in an area of illegal mining, the lawyer said.
Mello is not involved in illegal mining and has been working in engineering, air taxi and mining for 20 years, legally, with the proper authorizations and licenses, he said. “The objects found at the company’s headquarters have nothing to do with illegal mining activities.”
A complaint of abuse of authority was filed against agents of the National Security Force and Ibama, filed with the Ministry of the Environment, in Brasília, according to the lawyer.
When Anac’s inspectors were at the Cataratas space, a pilot and a partner from Emar Táxi Aéreo were testing a helicopter. They were heard by the PF and said they would carry out a rescue on the banks of the Uraricoera River, which cuts through the Yanomami land.
The pilot also stated that one of the seized helicopters had been leased by Emar, for five years, until 2020. He and his partner were heard as witnesses. The PF continues to investigate the participation of the two in the episode. They are still being investigated by Anac, according to the company itself.
Emar has so far received R$ 55 million for transport aimed at indigenous health. “We have no involvement with the company that suffered the seizure. Emar pilots have no duty of exclusivity. On the day of the occurrence, they were on vacation and at the location without the company’s knowledge and consent”, stated Antônio Romeiro, general director of Emar, in writing.
“Emar is a reputable company, for over 18 years in the aviation market without the occurrence of any accident, which values the legality of the acts and has never participated or was not even investigated for any illegal act”, said Romeiro.
Regarding the funds received from the federal government, the director stated that the services have been provided since the successful bid by the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health in 2018.
“There are no records of other irregularities involving an illegal act on behalf of Emar at Anac,” said the agency.
Of the nine helicopters seized, two were operated by Tarp Táxi Aéreo and one was owned by that company, according to the records of Anac. The report was unable to contact the company at the phone numbers informed, nor was there a response to the email sent.