The plan to hack Brazil’s chief electoral justice


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Laura Quirin
The Brazilian Report


The plan to hack Brazil’s chief electoral justice
A story published in February 2023 by The Brazilian Report was the first to show that a hacker was paid by a congresswoman close to former president Jair Bolsonaro to wiretap Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes – considered Bolsonaro's nemesis. The investigation took us four months to complete, involving data cross-referencing and interviews with multiple sources to verify the information. Hacker Walter Delgatti Neto told us that lawmaker Carla Zambelli asked him to hack Justice Moraes. We showed that he contacted a person to clone the justice's cell phone chip, and offered payment, in Portuguese language audio clips that we disclosed. We also revealed that Mrs. Zambelli asked Mr. Delgatti to find vulnerabilities in the electronic voting machines used in Brazilian elections since 1996. This was part of a campaign to discredit the electoral process, linked to the former President, who repeated these false accusations of irregularities to call into question the election results in case of defeat. Mr. Delgatti put us under pressure to not publish the piece – and our website received coordinated DDoS attacks shortly before the article was published, on the day of publication and during the days that followed. Federal police raided Ms. Zambelli’s offices and home and executed an arrest warrant for Mr. Delgatti in August. Justice Moraes also requested access to her confidential banking records. The warrants cite excerpts from The Brazilian Report story that detailed the plan to hack the justice — part of a plan to dig dirt on him and discredit the 2022 presidential race. At the time, the case gained a lot of coverage in the Brazilian press. Months later, the hacker was questioned by a congressional committee on the matter, and revealed that Mr. Bolsonaro asked him to fake a voting fraud – which he was not able to perform. The entire episode is considered one of the most notorious attempts of the last government to remain in power by illegal ways. Now, Mr. Delgatti is under arrest and negotiating a plea bargain agreement in return for further detailed information, and Ms. Zambelli faces serious risk of having her mandate revoked. Mr. Delgatti became known by Brazilians after hacking the Telegram accounts of prosecutors of Operation Car Wash, Brazil's world-famous anti-corruption probe, in 2019. Information he obtained exposed a series of irregularities in the investigation, forming a fundamental part of the legal thesis that quashed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's convictions, allowing him to return to politics. Lula beat Mr. Bolsonaro by a narrow margin in last year’s elections. The former president is being investigated for allegedly inciting putschists movements that led to the January 8 riots, when hordes of pro-Bolsonaro supporters stormed buildings of the three branches of power, hoping the Armed Forces would intervene and prevent Lula from taking office. He was recently rendered ineligible for public office for eight years after being convicted of electoral crimes, and is subject of numerous other probes that could lead to his arrest.
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