Petrobras Commission Wants to Dig Up Dead Congressman

EspañolIs former Brazilian Congressman José Mohamed Janene really dead? That’s what Hugo Motta, a lawmaker heading the Congressional Inquiry Commission (CPI) into the Petrobras scandal, will try to answer.

On Wednesday, May 20, Motta announced he would request the exhumation of Janene, a representative from the southern Brazilian state of Paraná who was involved in the state-run oil firm’s corruption scheme.

The then 55-year-old leader of the conservative Progressive Party (PP) died in September 2010 while waiting for a heart-transplant procedure at São Paulo’s Heart Institute. However, Motta reported that the PP chief’s wife, Stael Fernanda Janene, never saw his body and that the coffin was sealed during the funeral service.

Motta said there’s nothing to lose by checking, since the CPI has reason to believe the congressman is alive and kicking in Central America.

Suspicions first arose after investigations revealed that Janenen held foreign bank accounts with his right-hand man and key actor in the money-laundering scheme, Alberto Yousseff. Motta did not reveal his sources, but pointed out that most of those funds were deposited in Central America.

Según Motta hay un fuerte indicio de que José Janene podría estar vivo. (Twitter)
Brazilian Congressman Hugo Motta believes José Janene (pictured) may be alive. (@navarro_livre)

The focus on Janene increased after Brazilian authorities uncovered his role in US$2.1 billion Petrobras embezzlement scheme, the largest in Brazil’s history.

In 2009, the police also tied Janene to the Mensalão vote-buying scandal that landed top politicians from the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) in prison, but he died months before his trial was due to take place.

“The information we have is that the widow isn’t sure that [her husband] is dead. He died from a heart attack and no one saw the body. The coffin arrived sealed [at the cemetery]. There is a suspicion that he could still be alive, and he would be the subject of an investigation by the CPI. He was responsible for the whole scandal that ended in Alberto Yousseff as the key figure. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know,” said Motta.

Motta also found it “strange” that the congressman’s wife could not see the body before the burial. “That is very strange. As a doctor, I can say that when a person dies because of a heart attack, it’s very common that the family can see the corpse.”

Widow Denies Everything

On Wednesday evening, Stael Janene vehemently denied she had ever talked to Motta or any other congressman about her husband’s death. She said she was offended by the “absurd” request to exhume the body, and claimed the the speculation doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

The woman said the family buried Janene without a coffin, according to Muslim tradition. She claimed that she and several residents from their home town of Londrina witnessed how the body was previously prepared.

“I cannot help but speak out at this moment because this is a mistake and [the congressmen] will perpetrate an inhuman, evil act against my children, his children, and all the Muslim community if they come to Londrina to carry out a senseless exhumation for political gain,” she wrote on her pubic Facebook account.

The CPI has yet to rule on the request to exhume the body, which would involve tasking a team to follow the procedure on site.

The Petrobras scandal emerged in 2014 after Brazilian federal police revealed that the PT and its coalition of supporters received bribes amounting to 3 percent of contracts in the state oil company.

So far the probe has lead to the arrest and prosecution of PT’s treasurer and three former Petrobras employees. Fifty other politicians from the PT and its political and corporate allies are under investigation.

In March and April, President Dilma Rousseff faced two massive protests calling for her resignation.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

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