The parallel bank complex set up by the money changer Dario Messer had illegal mining in the interior of Bahia as one of its gears.
According to investigations, the work of the emerald miners in Campo Formoso (BA) helped to keep the dollar-cable system active, which helped launder money from corrupt politicians, such as former governor Sérgio Cabral (MDB).
Only one exporter of precious stones that operates in the city moved US $ 44 million from 2011 to 2017 (about R $ 250 million), according to data from Operation Marakata, an offshoot of Rio de Janeiro’s Lava Jato.
A leaf showed last Tuesday (6) how failures in the inspection of mining and the scrapping of the body responsible for regulating the sector, the ANM (National Mining Agency), make it difficult to fight corruption and money laundering through the activity.
Failures entered the authorities’ radar at the forefront of fighting corruption and money laundering in Brazil and around the world. The Brazilian authorities fear a negative repercussion of these weaknesses in the international financial system.
The body that serves as a global reference for the sector, the Gafi (International Financial Action Group), has scheduled an inspection of the country, and the detection of weaknesses may lead the entity to downgrade Brazil’s assessment of mechanisms to combat money laundering, thus hampering the making of foreign investments.
Operation Marakata pointed out how the gold mining in Campo Formoso ended up being one of the operating parts of the parallel bank set up by Messer, which handled US $ 1.6 billion (equivalent to about R $ 5.3 billion in values at the time) of 2011 to 2017 involving more than 3,000 offshores in 52 countries. Messer is known as the money changer of money changers.
The investigation was based on the award of two Messer minority partners, Vinicius Claret and Cláudio Barboza. They were responsible for carrying out cable dollar transactions.
The structure set up by the group was one of the few that managed to operate both ends of the cable dollar: at the same time, offering cash in the country and having cash available in accounts abroad, in tax havens.
This was possible due to the number of customers and the different interests of each one. While corrupt politicians, for example, needed to turn cash in Brazil into deposits abroad, corrupt companies needed cash resources in the country to pay kickbacks.
Claret and Barboza made the “marriage” of operations through the parallel bank, offering accounts abroad for payment for the cash offered.
Part of that gear, however, did not necessarily involve corruption. This is where the miners from Campo Formoso (BA) enter.
It was Barboza and Claret who made the deposits in kind in the account of prospectors and “middlemen” who sold stones to the company OS Ledo. The firm mainly exported products to India and Hong Kong.
AOS Ledo received payments from buyers abroad in accounts indicated by Claret and Barboza. Part of it was passed on to the owners of the firm, in Brazil, and the rest stayed with the money changers to assist in other dollar-cable transactions in tax havens.
Previous investigations by the Federal Police indicate that the gemstones supplied to OS Ledo originated from illegal extractions. One of the intercepted conversations shows that the middlemen used permission documents for mining in another region to transport and sell the precious stones.
The gold mining permit is intended for small gold mines with an area of up to 50 hectares. The sale of precious stones in this simpler type of extraction is done through paper invoices, which in most cases are filled in by hand.
These notes are not used in electronic control systems, which makes it impossible to cross data and identify irregularities in the production chain.
The investigation also indicates that less than half of OS Ledo’s exports were reported to the authorities. Most of the company’s activity revenue circulated through money changers.
The same was true of miners and middlemen. One of the suspects formally received R $ 647 thousand from OS Ledo between 2013 and 2018, while he collected R $ 1.9 million through the parallel system of the money changers Claret and Barboza.
The former Lava Jato task force saw a direct connection between money laundering and the corruption scheme in Cabral, which also used Messer’s system to send money abroad.
“Cabral’s cash money was given to a money changer, who used a money changer network to send the money abroad. This sending is only possible because another client, from another money changer, was making the reverse move and depositing it in Cabral’s account abroad (despite not knowing it) to receive in cash in Brazil. One crime is closely linked to the other, they are interdependent, ”said Attorney Eduardo El Hage, former coordinator of the Lava Jato task force in Rio.
Operation Marakata was one of the withdrawals from Judge Marcelo Bretas, the magistrate responsible for the actions of Lava Jato. The TRF-2 (Federal Regional Court of the 2nd Region) understood that there was no close connection between the cases.
Judge Alexandre Libonati sentenced Messer to 13 years and 4 months in prison in the Marakata case. He signed a winning plea and confirmed the dynamics of operations. Those responsible for OS Ledo are awaiting sentencing.
A leaf was unable to locate the company’s representatives as well as its lawyers.