By Jorge Joaquim
Former transport minister Paulo Zucula has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for money laundering in connection with payments made by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer, which the company admits helped it secure sales to state-owned airline LAM.
Another defendant, businessman Mateus Zimba, was also sentenced to 10 years in jail. A third defendant, the then LAM chairman Jose Viegas, was freed, as the statute of limitations for his charge had expired.
Zucula and Zimba, who are expected to remain at liberty while they appeal the verdict, were also fined MZN70m ($1.1m) each.
According to Embraer, Zimba acted as a consultant on a deal in May 2008 to sell two aircraft to LAM for $32m each. Zimba asked Embraer for “a ‘gesture’ when delivering the first plane,” Embraer said. Embraer offered Zimba $50,000 per plane, but Zimba insisted on $800,000, suggesting they raise the price charged to LAM to cover the cost.
In September 2008, LAM signed an agreement to buy two planes for $32.7 million each, more than the $32m originally suggested by Embraer. Following the delivery of each aircraft, a company set up by Zimba submitted two invoices to Embraer for $400,000 each, which were paid in 2009. Zimba went on to share the money with Zucula.