The Brazilian federal police arrested Monday a Congressman and several members of the Universal Church who were about to take off in a private plane from Brasilia airport carrying luggage stuffed with millions of US dollars.
Acting on an anonymous tip, police went to a hangar at Brasilia’s airport and searched the aircraft that was about to carry conservative Liberal Front Party Deputy, PFL, Joao Batista Ramos da Silva and several other clergy people to Goiania, capital of the central state of Goias. Reliable police sources said that the seven suitcases contained the equivalent of eight million US dollars in cash.
Mr. Ramos da Silva who is also a bishop in the evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, confessed to the police the cash came from church faithful’ donations. Universal Church is known for its luxurious temples and extensive media holdings.
The arrests occur at a very sensitive moment for Brazilian public opinion that has been shell shocked by several weeks of bribes and money scandals revelations involving the ruling Workers Party of president Lula da Silva.
Actually one of President Lula’s closest aides Jose Adalberto Vieira da Silva was arrested last Friday at Sao Paulo airport when he was unable to explain the origin of almost 200,000 US dollars he was carrying in hand luggage and stuffed in his underwear.
A month ago deputy Roberto Jefferson, a close ally of the ruling coalition revealed that the Workers Party had mounted an organization to bribe Congress members in support of government legislation which was paid with money milked from government managed companies.
President Lula has promised to get to the bottom of the matter and fire all those involved and has since began a reshuffling of the cabinet trying to distance himself from the Workers Party.
Among opposition parties, none has been more aggressive than PFL in attempting to capitalize the government’s weakness, but has now been caught red-handed.
In Brazil transporting important amounts of money is not illegal, but the origin and destination must be reported.