Former Minister Milton Ribeiro and an evangelical pastor linked to Bolsonaro were arrested

Both are facing an inquiry to investigate an alleged kickback scheme to get access to public money

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (Brasil) |
Minister is the third to head Education Ministry in the Bolsonaro government - Reprodução/Twitter

Former Minister of Education Milton Ribeiro and pastor Gilmar Santos were arrested this Wednesday morning, June 22, during the operation “Acesso Pago” (Paid Access, in English) by the Federal Police. The action was part of an inquiry investigating the scheme of “influence peddling and corruption to transfer public financial resources” to Brazil’s National Education Development Fund (FNDE, in Portuguese) to city halls with the mediation of lobbyists-evangelical pastors.

In addition to the arrests, the Federal Police is also executing search and seizure warrants in addresses linked to Ribeiro, Santos, and Arilton Moura, another pastor pointed out as a lobbyist in the scheme. In all, there are 13 search and seizure warrants and five arrests in the states of Goiás, São Paulo, Pará, and the country’s Federal District.

Brazil’s Federal Police mapped pieces of evidence of crimes involving the transfer of resources. They based their mapping on documents and a report by the Brazilian Office of the Controller General (CGU, in Portuguese),

Recall the case

In an audio recording leaked by media on March 21, 2022, Ribeiro states he prioritizes allocating FNDE resources to those city halls whose requests had been negotiated by pastors Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura at the request of Bolsonaro. The pair do not have official posts in the Ministry of Education and took part in an informal scheme to obtain a budget.

“The president made a special request to me regarding [pastor] Gilmar’s issue. In an audio recording, Ribeiro said, "My priority is to serve first those cities in need and, secondly, to serve every Gilmar's friend."

In his testimony to the Federal Police, on April 31, Ribeiro said that Bolsonaro “had, in fact, asked him to meet pastor Gilmar, but it does not mean that he enjoyed differentiated or privileged treatment in the management of FNDE or the Ministry of Education.

He also stated that the audio recordings leaked are out of context. “That statement, in the audio recording, was made to honor pastor Gilmar since he is a national religious leader. It did not intend to say that Pastor Gilmar's friends were privileged by the National Education Development Fund or the Ministry of Education”, he said.

The former minister even said that he “was not aware that Pastor Gilmar or Pastor Arilton allegedly co-opted mayors to offer privileges with public resources under the management of FNDE”.

Evangelical pastors met Bolsonaro

Gilmar Santos and Arilton Moura met with President Jair Bolsonaro, ministers and secretaries a couple of times. Arilton Moura alone attended 22 meetings with the Ministry of Education.

He attended four meetings in Brasília with Bolsonaro, three of them at the Planalto Palace and one at the Ministry of Education, with Milton Ribeiro.

In March 2019, Gilmar Santos was received by Vice President Hamilton Mourão, which was temporarily at the presidential seat in Bolsonaro's absence. In July of the same year, the agenda of the then Chief of Staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, also shows to a meeting with "Pastor Gilmar". In November of that same year, Arilton Moura met with the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, in the presence of the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Zonshine, and federal deputy Vicentinho Junior (Workers Party, Tocantins state). In December, Minister Ciro Nogueira met Gilmar and Arilton, along with federal deputy João Campos (Republicans, Goiás state).

Both evangelical pastors attended an event hosted by the Ministry of Education in February 2020.

In February last year, the three men – Ribeiro, Gilmar and Arilton – attended an event at the Ministry of Education. In posts on social media, Gilmar highlighted that he took more than 40 mayors from four states to “talk about the advances and challenges of the current educational system”.

Edited by: Rodrigo Chagas