Rebeca Rezende Boyle – Brazil
I am a British man, Martin Boyle, who was married to a Brazilian woman, Mara Silvia Oliveira Rezende. The result of my 15 year battle to see my daughter is that I have had my father's rights illegally removed in Brazil, my daughter has been fraudulently adopted by another man (the modus operandi in Brazil) and I have been imprisoned in São Paulo on a trumped up charge of non-payment of child support - all in a relentless attempt to physically block me from seeing my daughter. I have been simply unable to see my daughter since 1994 because my ex-wife and her family - with the active connivance of the Brazilian legal system and the pathetic dithering of the British authorities - has managed to run rings around everyone, hide my daughter away, commit perjury and simply refuse to cooperate with any request for access.
My ex-wife and I lived in the UK and Brazil and had a daughter, Rebeca, who was born in July 1992. Our relationship broke down and we separated in December 1992 after my ex-wife had engineered my firing from my post as an English teacher and my in-laws’ lawyers had ordered me to leave the family home. I went through a rushed custody hearing which I was not prepared for and which I only half understood and custody was awarded to my ex-wife. I was told I could visit Rebeca one afternoon every two weeks. I was also told that I had to pay £180 sterling a month in child support. I did not have a job or a home (I was sleeping on a friend's floor) because so I left Brazil to return to the UK to weigh up my options.
I returned to the UK in December 1992 seriously depressed and worked sporadically for a few months. I was unable to pay the child support stipulated but did send money when I could. During this time, neither my ex-wife nor my in-laws acknowledged the receipt of any money at all. In June 1993 I finally secured full-time work again and, in the face of persistent refusal to acknowledge the receipt of money, I opened an account for my daughter in the UK and have been depositing the child support there ever since. I did not realise that this act of love and good faith would end up with me in a Brazilian prison 16 years later on a spurious charge of non-payment of child support.
In June 1994, I went to Brazil because my letters had gone unanswered for a year. I was led on a bizarre wild goose chase around São Paulo by my ex-wife, Mara Silvia, before I finally got to see Rebeca in a church hall. I broke down in tears when I saw my daughter. I spent two days there before leaving Brazil again to go back to work. I gave Mara some money and we agreed that there would be regular contact through letters and telephone. She had no intention of maintaining contact. Once again, my letters and calls and money transfers went unacknowledged.
In 1997, after years of non-cooperation from Mara, I divorced her in Britain under English law. She was fully informed through her lawyers and they sent a letter in response only after they had received the decree nisi from the English court. Mara herself refused to respond.
After the divorce, I tried to maintain contact with Rebeca by telephone through my ex-in-laws and there were brief periods when I thought that we were reaching an understanding and I chatted with Rebeca on the phone. She knew that I was her daddy and said she loved me and wanted us to be a family and I said that that was my dearest wish as well. I continued to put the child support payments in Rebeca's account in the UK because Mara and her family simply refused to acknowledge any letters or money transfers. Gradually, contact petered out because the ex-in-laws refused to pass on messages. Mara had long since disappeared with Rebeca and I did not know where she was. I continued putting the child support in Rebeca's UK account though.
Contact occurred on an extremely intermittent basis, with Mara blowing hot and cold, but with some beautiful moments in which I managed to talk to Rebeca on the phone. In the end, though, in 2002 Mara started screaming hysterically down the phone at me, prompting Rebeca to start crying (it was later alleged that I had made Rebeca cry). That was the last time I ever heard my daughter's voice. She was 10.
In 2004 I again started campaigning in earnest to try and make contact with Rebeca. My ex-father-in-law, Milton Pessoa Rezende, promised to take me to see Mara and Rebeca if I came to Brazil. I started writing and emailing through him but still received no reply.
Frustrated and driven to distraction, I boarded a flight to São Paulo in an attempt to see my daughter. I made contact through my ex-mother-in-law, Maria Josefina Oliveira Rezende, who said she would contact Mara but instead, in a grotesque act of bad faith, contacted a lawyer. I myself took on a lawyer who, it turns out, probably thought that this would be a straightforward access/ money issue, but who underestimated the bad faith of the Rezende family. In the end I did not see my daughter and returned to the UK heartbroken. I had made a denuncia, or official police report in Sao Paulo, but nothing was done about it.
Between 2005 and 2008 I tried to get help from the following organisations to see my daughter:
1. The British Consulate in Brazil.
2. The Foreign Office, Child Abduction Unit.
3. Neil Gerrard, MP.
4. The Office of the Official Solicitor.
5. International Social Services.
6. Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
7. Brazilian Central Authority (Federal Authority), and Interpol.
8. Kent Constabulary, (UK regional police force) - Interpol.
10. Missing Persons.
11. Brazilian Federal Police, through which I made a denuncia (accusation) in 2005.
12. The Brazilian Embassy in London
13. Brazilian Social Services.
14. Internet social networking sites.
15. Two private lawyers in Brazil, one of whom ripped me off and did nothing, and the other (recommended by the Brazilian Federal Authority) who simply disappeared before doing any work on the case.
I have also made three Data Protection Act requests to the Foreign Office, the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Office of the Official Solicitor and have uncovered evidence of a degree of duplicity and bad faith on the part of the UK authorities which would cause complete disbelief it were presented as an episode of Yes Minister (e.g. attempting to establish that my daughter had no right to British citizenship so that they could 'get rid of this chap' and 'wash our hands of the matter').
None of these organisations have been able to do anything because my ex-wife has simply refused to cooperate. She has refused to divulge her address, has impersonated a lawyer on the phone to Brazilian social services and the Brazilian Central Authority and had my daughter adopted by her new partner on the grounds that I had abandoned her.
The final straw came in June 2008 when I called a woman at the Brazilian Central Authority who had been dealing with my application under the Hague Convention. I had struggled since 2006 to get the Central Authority to agree to pursue the case under the Hague Convention. They finally agreed in December 2007 after Reunite had called Alex Marinkovic at the Office of the Official Solicitor and asked him to request the Brazilian Central Authority to do this (they had previously refused, so it seems that personal requests carry weight in this area). I dealt with two people in the Brazilian Central Authority, Patricia de Texeira Lamego Soares and Lalisa Froeder Dittrich. They told me that we needed to be quick because the hague Convention did not apply to children over the age of 16, and my daughter would be 16 on 23rd July 2008. We put a case together, and Lalisa Froeder told me that as long as the case went to the AGU (Brazilian Federal Court) before my daughter's 16th birthday, they would deal with it. She and Patricia Soares contacted Alex Marinkovic on 26th May to say that the case had been sent to the AGU and that they would deal with it in about a month. Between then and yesterday, I had no replies to my emails to them. Yesterday, when I called Lalisa Froeder, it transpired that she had gone on maternity leave and had not arranged to have my emails forwarded to her colleague, Stella Chimarrelli. Ms Chimarrelli, however, informed me that the case had been rejected by the AGU on the grounds that my daughter was ALMOST 16, and that they had sent the documentation to Alex Marinkovic in London by normal mail, even though they knew that there was a postal strike in Brazil. They had made no attempt to email me, even though they knew that I was in regular contact with them. If I had not called, the deadline of my daughter's birthday would have passed and I would have been none the wiser. You could not make this story up, and it confirms accusations of Brazilian non-compliance with the Hague Convention. It also shows that my ex-wife's strategy of non-cooperation, refusal to divulge her address and her simply hanging on until my daughter's 16th birthday has paid off for her.
In June 2008 I again returned to Brazil in-person to try and see Rebeca. I was hoping to force an agreement on access and was willing to hand over Rebeca's UK bank account. I never imagined in my wildest dreams what would happen. On arrival at Guarulhos airport I was taken into custody by federal agents and put in a 3mX4m bare cell with 15 - 20 criminals on a charge of non-payment of child support (Brazil runs an archaic system of Dickensian debtors' prisons). I had offered to pay there and then at the airport but was told that either someone else would have to pay or I would have to serve 60 days.
In fact the British consulate ended up conniving with the Brazilian authorities in a disgraceful example of duplicity. The British pro-consul in São Paulo, who is Brazilian, shouted at me down the phone, telling me that I did not know what I was talking about when I was in police custody at the airport. I had told her that all of this might have been avoided if they had done their job and had not raised my expectations back in 2006 when I had first contacted them and they had promised to visit Rebeca and carry out a welfare check. When I was in prison, a consular worker who was also Brazilian, visited me and brought me a ‘gift’ of a packet of chewing gum, ten sachets of shampoo and a comb (I am bald). This same person also contacted my father to say that I was being detained in a ‘room’ with ‘other men in the same situation’ and was ‘not allowed to leave the room.’ I was actually in a 3mX4m cell with no furniture on a concrete floor with 15 to 20 hardened criminals. The consulate also completely confused my father by conniving with the Brazilian authorities in asking for money to be paid and then claiming that more was owed. My father smelt a rat and went straight to the press.
My lawyer got me out on a legal challenge after 15 days but not after he had informed me three days into my imprisonment that I had had my fathers' rights (patrio poder) officially removed and that Rebeca had been adopted by a man I had never even heard of. I had never even been summonsed or contacted about it and did not even know the name of this man. I have subsequently found out that his name is José Augusto Dos Santos Sá and he lives in São José dos Campos in Sao Paulo. Rebeca has had her birth certificate changed without my knowledge or permission and her name is now Rebeca Rezende Sá. Even my parents' names have been removed and replaced with those of José Augusto Dos Santos Sá's parents - people who are not her blood relatives.
Mara Silvia Oliveira Rezende is now Mara Silvia Rezende Sá, and she has behaved with extreme duplicity along with her mother and father in this matter. She has lied and delayed, refused access to the British Consulate and to Social Services in the city of Itu, Sao Paulo. She called social services posing as a lawyer and there has been no comeback. She has acted with complete impunity. Right up until the point at which I was imprisoned in July 2008, she and her parents had kept to the position that they had nothing against my seeing my daughter - just that she needed to be 'psychologically prepared'. When she found out that I was in jail, howver, she apparently danced for joy and said, 'he will never see Rebeca as long as he lives. I hope they deport him without a stitch on his back!' She was completely uninterested in discussing either access or money. I have managed to get this far with the support of friends. I sometimes feel like giving up completely and putting everything in a box marked 'another life' but then I know that I have to do everything to prove to Rebeca that I have never stopped loving her and that I never abandoned her. One day, I might see her and she might tell me that she never wants to see me again as long as she lives, but at least I will have the knowledge that I tried everything because I love her.