Defendants like the former president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, or the former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Sócrates, have complained about political persecution and have taken a critical stance against their accusers.
Corruption mega-processes such as that of the Lava-Jato, in Brazil, Operation Marquês and Operation Fizz, in Portugal, have in common old statesmen or rulers as defendants and a latent discourse on the politicization of these cases. High profile defendants such as the former president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, or the former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Sócrates, have complained throughout the investigation of political persecution. Judicial officers in these proceedings are criticized for extending the investigation for an excessive time.
José Sócrates has always argued that the case in which he is accused of corruption has "political contours." "This entire process is nothing more than a political persecution," Sócrates told Visão magazine in an interview published on May 24 of this year, the first he has given since handing out his party member card and leaving PS.
Lula faced and criticized Judge Sérgio Moro, Sócrates faced and criticized DCIAP prosecutor Rosário Teixeira. During Lula's questioning by Judge Sérgio Moro, on May 11, the former president testified for five hours. He then accused the Public Prosecutor's Office, the body which opened the Lava-Jato investigation, of wanting to "criminalize his presidency," and to top it all "without any evidence."
José Sócrates also lost his calm several times during the questioning of Operation Marquês and accused the investigators of lying. He complained that he was a "political target." In one of these speeches, at a press conference in July 2016, Sócrates stated the following: "I want to remind the prosecutor who directs DCIAP, that the criminal action in this country must be committed before the Law. This inquiry ended on October 19, 2015, and ended without any charge. The extension of this investigation without legal coverage confirms that this investigation was not intended to investigate a crime, but to pursue a political target." He also reaffirmed that his arrest served only to prevent him from applying for the Presidency of the Republic.
In Operation Fizz, former Vice President of Angola Manuel Vicente is accused of corrupting former MP attorney Orlando Figueira with one million euros to close a case in which the former was promised the position of Sonangol's president. The process was politicized from the beginning, with Portugal-Angola relations being sacrificed because the inquiry into Manuel Vicente was being conducted in Lisbon. When the process of the former vice president was transferred to Luanda, mid-June, "the 'irritating' element" in the relation between the two countries was over.
Also in Angola, the fact that the case of Angola's Sovereign Wealth Fund (FSDEA) targeted Filomeno dos Santos, one of the sons of former President José Eduardo dos Santos, has been interpreted as synonymous with the use of Justice as a tool in an eventual confrontation between the current holders of political power and their predecessors. At the end of May, João Lourenço denied this stating that "Angolan citizens" and "not the sons of the former president" were under investigation, referring to the expulsion of not only of Filomeno dos Santos from the FSDEA but also of Isabel dos Santos from Sonangol. Isabel dos Santos management of the Angolan oil company was marked by "irregularities." Her brother is charged with "fraud, misappropriation of funds, influence peddling, money laundering and criminal association."
But more than this being a matter of domestic politics, when faced with an Angola plunged into a serious economic and financial crisis, the new President had to let people know that the practices of the past could no longer be tolerated.
In Brazil, there is suspense about what can happen in the presidential elections in October since Lula da Silva, an arrested defendant in the Lava-Jato case, appears as a putative candidate in polls (a candidacy that can still be prevented if the appeals brought by the former President's lawyers don't go forward). "I am a very strong candidate," Lula said in early May through a message sent from the cell of the Federal Police in Curitiba, where he has been detained since April.
Regarding the Lava-Jato case, it was mentioned that the judge who questioned Lula, Sérgio Moro, would be using the investigation to gain notoriety and enter himself into political life, aiming at a possible candidacy for the presidency. Being a frequent presence at major international conferences and being considered one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2016 (the only Brazilian to be recognized as such) has fueled that scenario. But the main criticisms directed against him aim to demonstrate that the judge and the Lava-Jato operation team were carrying out a "coup d'etat" against Dilma Rousseff's government, which has since been removed from the presidency, and against the PT, which they would wish to destroy. The arrest of Lula da Silva is pointed out as an example of this strategy.
Moro's reputation is not, after all, above suspicion. He is criticized for publicly disclosing extracts from Lula's wiretapping and for having previously arrested a person for 49 days and for having authorized wiretaps for six consecutive months to the same individual. The law regulating this procedure only allows for wiretapping to be carried out by a period of 15 days, renewable only once. And the performance of the lawyer has been scrutinized several times since 2005 by the Federal Supreme Court and the National Council of Justice. All investigations have been closed.
In 2017, Moro also had his name associated with an alleged case of sales for the reduction of sentences and fines under the Lava-Jato operation, which would have been carried out by his friend and best man, Carlos Zucolotto Júnior. Charges that both of them deny.
In Portugal, Sócrates handed over, in May, his PS party member card, which was his since 1981. In an opinion article published in Jornal de Notícias, the former prime minister explained the decision: "The time has come to put an end to this mutual embarrassment."
Sócrates' decision came a day after Carlos César, PS's parliamentary leader, and Socialist spokesman João Galamba, expressed their "shame" over the public revelation that Manuel Pinho, economy minister in the Sócrates government, made decisions favoring EDP and had a suspicious relationship with the Espírito Santo Group. In fact, the BES case, in which Ricardo Salgado was targeted, was also very politicized.
Even the possible departure from office, in October, of the Attorney General Joana Marques Vidal is being used in political speech. The PGR has opened a series of large corruption investigations that have affected several members of former governments. Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem may have shown the way out to the Attorney General by characterizing her mandate as "long and exceptional." This remark suggests that the Justice Minister might opt for a different name to occupy the office in October. What the minister defined as a "legal interpretation" was used as a weapon against the government by the opposition and by various voices from the political and judicial sectors.