A man of few words, the director-general of the Federal Brazilian Police, Leandro Daiello came out of anonymity to state, in an interview to Estado that no one will be exempt from the law. The ongoing investigations will proceed even if they lead to President Rousseff or former President Lula, he said. “We investigate facts, not people. Where those facts take us is a consequence of the investigation itself, as painful as it may be”.
Originally from the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, Daiello has been and director-general of the Brazilian equivalent to the FBI since 2011. He used the expression “as painful as it may be” three times during the interview, to make clear that the Federal Police is an independent institution with solid rules of conduct, and that investigations are to continue “with or without José Eduardo Cardozo as justice minister, and with or without Daiello leading the Federal Police”.
This interview takes place when the Rousseff administration is under mounting political pressure as a result of the “Lavo Jato” investigations of corruption in state oil giant Petrobras, launched in March 2014. The Federal Police and the federal Public Prosecutor’s Office led “Lava Jato”. The Superior Electoral Tribunal and the Union’s Accounting Court are also involved. The delicate political situation was exacerbated by allegations that [minister of Justice] Cardozo was to step down from office, which he denied following a meeting with Rousseff. Daiello was firm in his defense of Cardozo: “His conduct has been absolutely aligned with our democratic values”.
Will anything change in the Federal Police if Minister of Justice Cardozo steps down?
It does not matter if the minister leaves or not. The Federal Police is a solid institution. It has really consolidated itself in the last few years; we have a strong police doctrine and culture as well as a robust investigative team.
The leadership of the Workers Party recently summoned Minister Cardozo regarding the work of the Federal Police, and former President Lula told outside sources that the Minister does not control the Federal Police. Is that true?
The Federal Police is controlled by the law. We follow the law and no one will accept political interference here. Pressuring the Minister of Justice to influence, withhold or alter any action of the Federal Police is not a possibility. To think in that way would be to premeditate a crime.
Isn’t the Minister your boss?
The Minister is responsible for the Federal police, but only in the administrative arena. The actions of the Federal police with regards to ongoing investigations are done based on the law.
You are always at the Ministry, what do you talk about with the Minister?
Subjects related to the Federal Police, our borders, drug traffic, new equipment, etc…
Do you talk about the ongoing investigation on the Workers Party and the president’s campaign finances?
The Minister is fully aware of the investigation on the day that an operation occurs, right after we obtain search warrants. The director-general, at that moment, informs the Minister about what is happening, but only at that moment.
What would happen if a Minister of Justice were to ask the director of the Federal Police to “soften” investigations on Lula, Dilma and others involved from the Workers Party?
The Director-General of the Federal Police has as a priority the fulfillment of the law. It is his duty to follow the law and to conduct all necessary investigations in the limits of such laws.
Did this [type of political pressure] take place?
No. The conduct of the Minister is completely within the laws and the values of the democratic state.
Did any politician ask you to send this sort of a message?
There is no space for this type of behavior here. The history of the Federal Police and the actions of the Federal police are based on democratic values of the Republic and the law.
The Workers Party has complained about the ongoing investigations, stating that the opposition is also implicated with irregularities in campaign finance. Dilma has cited PSDB Senator Aécio Neves. Why does the investigation mainly target the Workers Party?
The Federal police do not investigate people, it investigates facts. If there is a lead that a fact may be a crime, then the Federal Police investigates it within its jurisdiction, which is corruption, organized crime and drug trafficking.
On the other hand, the opposition alleges that every investigation against the Workers Party and their coalition partners always target a member of the opposition as in order to prove that the Federal Police is impartial.
The same principal applies. The Federal Police follows the law and due process. This is our mission, as painful as it may be. The Federal Police only pursues an investigation if there are possible leads to a crime. If the investigation leads to someone whose institutional position is protected by the law, then the Federal Police needs the authorization of the Supreme Federal Tribunal or of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to continue its work.
If there is no political pressure, is there economic pressure, especially with the imprisonment of several prominent CEO of privately held construction companies?
The Federal Police is not pressured. It does not matter to us who is being investigated, but rather that there is a solid investigation, with robust evidence.
One of the agents of the Federal Police stated that there was illegal wiretapping in the prison cell of Alberto Youssef, ordered by the Federal Police.
Every possible dubious action is immediately investigated by [our] Internal Affairs [department]. We are investigating whether it [the case you referred to] was an administrative or legal failure.
Would an illegal action possibly discredit the entire Lava Jato investigations?
I don’t see how a possibly dubious action could lead to the annulment of the investigation. The investigative operation is very solid, with concrete evidence within the realm of normal Federal Police investigations.
Where will the Lava Jato investigations lead us?
[Until we explore all the leads and there is nothing more to be investigated.] The investigation began with four whistleblowers, then it extended to their clients, and now there are new leads on more people. We will continue until we have exhausted all leads.
Even if that leads to Dilma, former president Lula and their campaigns?
We investigate facts, where those facts lead us is a consequence of the investigation, as painful as it may be.
If your investigation incriminates key government institutions and leaders, how will you deal with that? In your office there is an official portrait of the president.
When you begin an investigation you don’t know where, or to whom, that’s going to lead to. There needs to be transparency and the knowledge that the police do not have the right to pick and choose who to investigate. This isn’t a matter of choice.
Do disagreements between the Federal Police and the Federal Prosecutors Office get in the way of the ongoing investigations?
Animosity between the two institutions isn’t something new, and continues to exist, but both of have a duty to the Brazilian people to work together, and that’s what we have been doing.
Does the Federal Police have a wiretapping system (“grampolândia”)?
The equipment we use undergo audit to check who used it and in what occasion it was used in. The Federal Police is not a “grampolândia” [“wiretap ping central”] . Investigations with telephone monitoring devices don’t even reach 1%. The operation Acrônimo, which investigates de governor of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, for example, did not include telephone tapping.
The Governor said that there were irregularities in the evidence gathered against him and that he will file charges.
Any and every police misconduct is investigated by Internal Affairs. In the case of the Governor, a judge made a decision [allowing the investigations] and I followed those orders. I go to 15 or 16 places and deliver a judge’s orders. Beyond that I can’t guarantee anything.
What is necessary to beat organized crime?
The focus needs to be on decapitalizing criminal organizations, because without money they become weak and are unable to bribe public officials. That is why the investigation began with the whistleblowers, because they knew where the money was.
There has been a lot of push back on the preventative arrest of [CEO of Odebrecht company] Marcelo Odebrecht. Why was this course of action chosen?
Arrest warrants aren’t unilateral measures. The warrant was submitted to by the Federal Prosecutors Office and was approved by a judge. But I do not speak of ongoing investigations.
In New York, President Rousseff said she does not respect the whistleblower of the “Lava Jato”. What is your opinion on that?
The Federal Police uses every legal means in order to acquire information. With regards to whistleblowers, they are very [legal] important instrument in the investigation.
Could the Director-General call a regional [director of the Federal Police] that he appointed in order to “soften” an investigation?
That would be the end of this career. The institution [Federal Police] does not accept this type of behavior. If I do something wrong, any police office can arrest me.
Have there been attempts to lure young people into committing violent acts during the upcoming Olympic Games [in Rio] through the use of the internet?
The Federal Police has an anti-terrorism unit that grows at the same rate as other units around the world, however the FP does not speak of ongoing investigations, or whether they exist or not.
Congress is trying to vote on an anti-terror law for the country; are you for or against it?
I think it is important for us to be in sync with other countries, so that we may prepare ourselves for modern problems.
*Translated by Talita Franco, a rising senior at the American University, and Julia Cardoso, a rising senior at the George Washington University. Both are summer interns at the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.