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Story Publication logo March 26, 2022

President of Brazil’s Environment Agency Pressured Regional Director To Let Embargoed Gold Mining Company Operate (Portuguese)

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Image by The Intercept Brasil.

This is a summary of the original story in Portuguese, which you can read here.

The president of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), Eduardo Bim, sent voice messages to a former director of the agency to overturn the embargo of Gana Gold, a mining company that made R$1 billion while operating with an irregularly obtained license.

WHATSAPP MESSAGES have revealed that Ibama President Eduardo Fortunato Bim pressured the then-director of the agency’s Pará branch to overturn embargoes against the mining company Gana Gold. The company extracted more than R$1 billion in gold from a federal conservation unit with an irregular environmental license.

The messages were shared by an anonymous source and verified by The Intercept. 

Gana Gold was embargoed by Ibama on September 9 of last year during the Federal Police's Gold Rush operation. That day, about 30 police agents served search and seizure warrants for gold samples at the mining company located in the Água Branca mining region, in Itaituba, in the southwest of the state of Pará. They went there to analyze whether the gold from the mine has the same geological characteristics as a 39kg load of illegal gold seized at the Jundiaí airport in São Paulo the previous month. The agents even arrested a man during the action for carrying a weapon with its registration number scratched off.

Four days later, the cell phone of Washington Luís Rodrigues, a São Paulo Military Police officer made superintendent of Ibama in Pará by Ricardo Salles, began receiving text and audio messages sent from Brasília. The first, on September 13, were from Fernando Leme, chief of staff of the Ibama presidency. He asked for an audience with Rodrigues and forwarded a message from Gana Gold lawyer Artur Mendonça Vargas Junior.


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Rodrigues asked for the case number and replied: “We are not going to promise anything, right.” Leme agreed that the hearing would be “without promising anything,” but asked to “do what is possible” and sent a copy of the petition presented by the lawyer and a photo of his card.

The next day, the pressure came from above. Eduardo Bim sent a photo of the Gana Gold lawyer's petition, the same document that had been sent the day before by the chief of staff.

In addition to sending the photo of the petition, Bim wrote to Rodrigues to see the status of the process “quickly.” The superintendent replied that the Gana Gold process “is at Cofis,” the Coordination of Inspection of Ibama. This means that the process went ahead after the inspection on September 9. Instead of being happy with the functioning of the institute he presides over, Bim expressed irritation: “F--.”

In the same conversation, Bim sent two voice messages to Rodrigues: The first asking why the embargo process was forwarded to Cofis; The second is more direct, talking about the intention of the president of Ibima.

“Hey Washington, fix this process there, man, because it looks like you have a state license that was issued on the day of the embargo,” he said. “They [Ibama inspectors] contested the municipal license, but even if the municipal license is not valid, today it has the state license, so tell people to analyze it quickly.”

Two people who know the Ibama’s top ranks confirmed that it was Bim's voice. Listen to the audios in the video below.

Video by The Intercept Brasil.

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