The STJ (Superior Court of Justice) has decided to release Falilatou refugee Estelle Sarouna, who had been arrested on a preventive basis since December last year as part of Operation Anteros, which was investigating a transnational megaproject of beatings state and online extortion.
Human rights entities, academics and parliamentarians have defended that the immigrant from Togo is innocent and that her name has been abused by the criminal organization on bank accounts in which they have used funds. illegal, as shown in a report by Folha published this Friday morning (11). .
According to a decision that was posted on the STJ portal on Friday at 8:30 p.m., Minister Sebastião Reis Júnior granted the habeas corpus request in defense of the refugee, who can now await trial in freedom. The content of the decision must be published next Tuesday (15), and it must be made public after that date. His lawyers, however, demanded that his release be brought forward.
Operation Anteros indicted 210 people accused of participating in an internet scam that claimed at least 437 victims in 24 Brazilian states, with an estimated loss of 24 million reais. According to the civilian police, the criminals, mostly Nigerians, used fake profiles on social media or dating sites to interact with the victims virtually. Then they extort them, threatening to release intimate photos – what the police call emotional embezzlement.
Born in Togo, Falilatou, 43, has lived in Brazil since 2014 and works as a street vendor, supporting her 12-year-old son and part of his family, who remained in Togo. She was accused of being one of the organization’s “account holders”, that is, of having borrowed her bank account to process illicit amounts. As evidence, the public prosecutor presented police reports of the victims of the coup d’état in which the Togolese woman appeared as the holder of four accounts and a form to open one of these accounts.
But the form is signed in cursive, and Falilatou is illiterate, according to family members and lawyers. In addition, the handwriting is very different from the signature that appears on her ID (which is basically a dash), as well as on her rental agreement and other documents signed by her and notarized.
Being illiterate, Fali needed help with banking and bureaucratic issues, says her only relative in Brazil, a Catholic priest who lives in Salvador. According to the Togolese defense, she was the victim of a scam and her data was used by criminals to open the account in her name, without her knowledge.
According to the lawyers, two other elements would signal her innocence: the first is that she did not lead a life compatible with someone who earns money through fraudulent activities. According to witnesses, Fali woke up at dawn to buy clothes to resell and worked all day on a sidewalk in Brás.
The second element is that she presented herself to the police on the day of the operation. When he returned home and saw that the door had been smashed, he went to a police station to open a police report, believing it had been robbed. Once there, he discovered that the police had entered his house to execute the arrest warrant. And was detained there.
“What criminal would spontaneously show up at a police station? Said Vítor Bastos, one of the lawyers handling the pro bono case. According to him, while there is evidence that other defendants who voluntarily lent their accounts, in exchange for money, were relatives of the organization’s criminals, there is nothing in the complaint that binds Falilatou. to the gang.
Bastos had already tried several remedies for Falilatou to await trial in freedom, but all were rejected. For him, as this is a process of nearly 20,000 pages and hundreds of defendants, the trial judge did not analyze each situation individually, awarding habeas corpus to groups on the basis of generic criteria – for example, mothers of children under 12.
Falilatou’s case was the subject of a meeting on May 31 at the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo City Hall, chaired by City Councilor Eduardo Suplicy (PT ), which was attended by representatives of the USP, the Municipal Council for Immigrants and the State Police Ombudsman.
During the meeting, the police mediator, Elizeu Soares Lopes, said that in Falilatou’s case there is “a lot of arbitrariness” and that he will work “to reverse this injustice”.
A campaign supported by NGOs, academic groups and MPs such as Natália Bonavides, Sâmia Bomfim and Érica Malunguinho sought to give visibility to the case and to raise funds for Falilatou’s son in Togo to return to the country. school – he had to leave school because he no longer receives the resources from the mother.
Falilatou’s brother Mossi Anoumou, who had given up on bringing the refugee’s son to Brazil in March of this year due to his arrest, said he would now resume those plans. “I want to bring it as soon as possible. I already want to continue the process next week.”