The Economist, 05/05/2012
“He has principles and convictions,” read the citation for Demóstenes Torres in Época’s list of the 100 most influential Brazilians of 2009. The senator from the state of Goiás, continued the magazine, was “not just another trafficker of political influence”.
Around the same time, police investigating illegal gambling were wiretapping Carlos Augusto Ramos (known as Carlinhos Cachoeira or “Charlie Waterfall”), a businessman thought to have ties to Brazil’s renowned numbers racket, the jogo do bicho (animal game; see article). Among his frequent callers was Mr Torres, who chatted about planned laws and projects, and asked for money. Mr Torres insists Mr Cachoeira is just a close friend. So he will presumably visit Mr Cachoeira in jail, where he is being held on suspicion of money-laundering, corruption and running an illegal gambling network.
Scandals are par for the course in Brasília, but this one promises to spray unusual amounts of muck. On April 25th Congress launched an inquiry into Mr Cachoeira’s political influence. It has convened an investigative committee that can look into or summon to testify anyone it wants, and has access to confidential bank, tax and phone records. So far it has named three federal deputies and two governors (as well as Mr Torres) as subjects of interest. It also plans to investigate Delta, a big Brazilian construction firm. One of the company’s former managers is now in jail after appearing in the wiretaps.