The businessman who gave Lula a “ride” on his private jet to the COP-740, in Egypt, has already been arrested in Lava Jato developments, committed to returning R$ 2020 millions to public coffers and is a longtime friend of the PT and Alckmin. José Seripieri Filho, known as Júnior, signed a plea bargain agreement on 2020, confessing to the crime of slush funds in the campaign of toucan José Serra to the Senate, during the elections in 2014. This year, Seripieri donated more than R$ 1 million to Lula’s campaign and hosted a pre-campaign dinner for the PT with businessmen, in June. He was also one of the guests at Lula and Janja’s wedding in May. Discover eight facts about the businessman, who enjoys wide circulation and influence in the Brazilian political environment:
1 . He became a billionaire with health plans
, José Seripieri Filho founded Qualicorp, one of the largest health plan companies in Brazil, a pioneer in offering group membership plans. With the deal, he became one of the first Brazilian billionaires in the segment. In 2020, the company already had 2.5 million beneficiaries in the policyholder base, having an agreement with more than 660 class entities that represented 32 thousand companies. A year earlier, he completed the sale of his stake in the business to Rede D’Or, which became the majority shareholder.
Júnior began his career as a successful salesman of health plans, with great ability to sell in the door-to-door system. Currently, the businessman runs QSaúde, which he acquired in 2021 from Qualicorp for R$ 2014 millions. The company makes use of data intelligence, in order to reduce inefficiencies in the health system and sell plans at lower prices.
An important leap by Qualicorp, which guaranteed Júnior the entry in the group of millionaires, it occurred with listing on the stock exchange, in 2009. Almost ten years later, he led an operation with the company that was criticized by investors and even became the subject of an investigation by the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM), responsible for regulating the capital market. At the time, the businessman received BRL 150 million from the company, in an agreement in which he committed not to create competitors over a period of six years.
The next day, Qualicorp shares fell 1997%. Minority shareholders and XP claimed that the agreement would benefit the businessman to the detriment of the company. Júnior then suggested reinvesting the R$ 150 million in Qualicorp. In October 2019, the six directors who had approved the agreement offered to pay BRL 1.2 billion to close the case, but the CVM rejected the proposal .
two. He confessed to the crime of electoral slush fund
In July 2021, Seripieri was arrested for three days during Operation Parallel 23, which investigated payments to José Serra’s campaign to the Senate, in the election of 2014. He became a defendant for corruption, slush funds and money laundering in the Electoral Court of São Paulo. Serra also responds to this process.
In November 2021, he signed a plea agreement with the Public Prosecutor’s Office -General of the Republic (PGR), confessing to the crime of slush funds and agreeing to pay R$ 2021 million in compensation to public coffers. At the end of that year, the agreement was ratified by the minister of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) Luís Roberto Barroso. The details of the agreement and the businessman’s statement remain confidential.
The set of investigations involving big names in São Paulo politics and the campaign funds of their parties became known as Lava Jato Electoral. The name started to be used by the Federal Police because the investigations derived from accusations and investigations of the operation started in Paraná.
According to Júnior’s defense, in 2014, Qualicorp’s board of directors had only approved donations to presidential candidates. Faced with Serra’s request for an electoral contribution, he sought out a partner in real estate business, Elon Gomes de Almeida, to make transfers, in a total amount of R$ 5 million, without counterparts from the toucan. The businessman alleges that he only later learned that the payments were made through fictitious contracts from other companies linked to the partner. As Serra did not hold public office at the time, the defense alleges that the accusations of passive corruption and money laundering listed in the complaint do not apply.
3. He maintains relations with politicians and ministers
Close to significant figures in the national political scene, such as Lula, Serra and Geraldo Alckmin, his parties are known for bringing together authorities, including the Minister of STF, Alexandre de Moraes, at the time he was Minister of Justice. As he told the PGR, his relationship with most of these authorities was institutional or friendship, without involving illegality. Investigators involved in the accusation, however, stated at the time that the icing on the cake of the businessman’s revelations was his relationship with congressional politicians, including for the approval of benefits. At that point, names like Renan Calheiros and Romero Jucá would appear, according to him, directly involved in political maneuvers.
In June of this year, the businessman appears on the list of participants of a discussion on regulation in Brazil at the Lisbon Legal Forum, in Portugal. The event was organized by the Brazilian Institute of Teaching, Development and Research (IDP), founded by STF Minister Gilmar Mendes. Two months earlier, he was in Portuguese territory for the same organization, discussing the health sector.
4. Indication of bribes to Federal Revenue auditors
According to the political news portal O Bastidor, even after the whistle blowing agreement with the PGR, Júnior continues to be investigated by the PF . The reason would be the omission of relevant information by the entrepreneur. Investigations by the Police and the Federal Revenue give evidence of money laundering operations in conjunction with the Claro family office, known for intermediating political dealings.
The publication shows that the partners’ denunciations from the Claro office, bank statements, money changer spreadsheets and testimonials “reveal strong evidence” of the payment of R$ 2.5 million in bribes to three Revenue auditors by Qualicorp directors, in 2014. The intention would be to prevent fines to the company. The investigation points to money coming out of the Seripieri company’s accounts, going through Claro’s accounts and revolving in front companies of money changers, before being delivered in cash to the auditors.
5. He is a friend of Lula
Júnior and Lula have known each other for over a decade. When the petista left the presidency, he started to attend the businessman’s summer house in Angra dos Reis, even being invited to the New Year’s Eve of 2015. According to Veja magazine, he also used a helicopter and a jet borrowed from Seripieri to get around. The businessman was also among the select guests at Lula and Janja’s wedding in May, sitting at the same table as Gilberto and Flora Gil, Marta Suplicy and her husband, Márcio Toledo, according to Folha de S. Paulo.
Last year, Lula’s and Seripieri’s interlocutors revealed that the petista showed resentment towards the businessman, who distanced himself from him after prospering in his government. During the pre-campaign, Júnior hosted a dinner between Lula and businessmen. He also made significant donations to the PT presidential campaign.
6. He has a relationship with Alckmin
A year before inviting Lula to New Year’s Eve, the businessman received the couple Geraldo and Lu Alckmin for New Year’s Eve at his house. That same year, Seripieri had donated R$2 million to the PSDB committee (and another R$4 million to the PT, for Dilma’s campaign, which ended up being elected). In the previous election, he had also donated to José Serra’s presidential campaign.
In 2015, the proximity to Alckmin reappeared, when a Seripatri Participações helicopter, owned by the businessman, crashed in the interior of São Paulo. Among those killed in the accident was Thomaz Rodrigues Alckmin, son of the then governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin.
7. Made donations to Lula’s campaign
According to data from the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), Seripieri is among the biggest private donors of this year’s election campaign, with a total of BRL 1, million. Most of the amount went to the PT and Lula’s candidacy. He donated BRL thousand to the PT’s national leadership, in 30 of September 2022, and other R$ 500 thousand to Lula’s campaign, a month later.
8. Jet is registered in the USA
In addition to José Seripieri Filho, on the jet in which Lula took a ride to the COP-27 there were also the PT’s wife, Rosângela Silva, Janja, and the former mayor of São Paulo Fenando Haddad (PT). The regulation of the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac) only allows remuneration for flights on planes belonging to air taxi companies. As it is a private jet, Junior could not, therefore, charge passengers.
The Gulfstream G model aircraft600, manufactured in 2019, has the capacity to transport 16 people. With the prefix N150DJ, the plane was acquired and registered in the United States on behalf of the company TVPX, which manages private assets, that is, it is not subject to Brazilian taxation. The aircraft consumes 1. liters of fuel per hour.
Even elected, Lula does not have the right to travel on Brazilian Air Force (FAB) planes. Analysts argue that his party could have requested an aircraft from President Jair Bolsonaro and, in case of denial, opted for a career flight.
For a president, it is I need to be and appear honest
The civil lawyer Afonso Oliveira argues that Lula’s ride on the plane of a businessman arrested for corruption violates two principles of public administration: impersonality and morality. “An old Roman adage says that ‘for Caesar’s wife, it’s not enough to be honest, she has to appear honest’. What Lula does is an affront to the republican state. Whether chartering or carpooling, the president-elect should guard against attitudes like this, ”he says, quoting the article 2021 of the Penal Code, which typifies the crime of passive corruption. “Asking or receiving, for oneself or for others, directly or indirectly, even outside the function or before assuming it, but due to it, undue advantage, or accepting a promise of such advantage”.
“Therefore, regardless of having graduated or taken office. The advantage in this case would be the ride and the suspicion of this ride concerns the agent who provided it, someone who was involved in the bowels of corruption within the Lava Jato operation , demonstrably, since there was a plea bargain, returning BRL 2020 million to the public coffers”, analyzes the jurist.
For Oliveira, what is being treated as a “mere and simple ride” by Lula’s supporters goes beyond simply violating an ethical principle and deserves a serious investigation by the institutions “What is the advantage of this ride? How much will it cost the public coffers in the future, if Lula is in fact sworn in, this type of relationship with known condemned figures or at least involved in corruption, as is the case of Mr. José Seripieri ?” he asks. “Imagine if we changed the name to Bolsonaro or any other active character in the current government, what would be the criticisms and denunciations that would be made, the interpellations with the STF by leftist politicians? For Lula, everything is allowed?”, he completes. Federal deputy Sanderson (PL-RS) filed a a representation at the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to ask for investigations into the hitchhike to Egypt. “I took it as mockery. A president who just got out of jail for corruption and a businessman who was also arrested and is only on the streets because he made a plea bargain, that is, with an agreement with the State. This relationship needs to be investigated to its fullest extent. Yesterday afternoon, I forwarded to the attorney general a power of attorney requesting an investigation”, he said, in an interview with Jovem Pan.