December 2, 2013
Vincent Bevins – The Los Angeles Times, 11/28/2013
In a country where less than 10% of prison inmates have finished high school, several major politicians and officials dealing with public funds are now behind bars in a corruption case.
After a long-running prosecution, the imprisonments have sent shock waves across the political and legal systems of a nation where widespread political corruption has long been a given but where dangerous prisons are usually reserved for the poor.
“The population has begun to believe that powerful people can be punished too,” Sao Paulo criminal attorney Rafael Tucherman said last week. “But the system continues to be the same.”
November 22, 2013
The Economist, 11/23/2013
AS CHIEF of staff to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2003-05, José Dirceu was the second most powerful man in Brazil. Then claims surfaced that he and other leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) were orchestrating a scheme to bribe allies in return for congressional support. Few Brazilians believed that Mr Dirceu, who resigned, would be charged, let alone convicted or jailed in a country where impunity for politicians has long been the norm. But on November 15th the supreme-court president, Joaquim Barbosa, issued warrants for the arrest of Mr Dirceu and 11 others among the 25 found guilty last year of, variously, bribery, money-laundering, misuse of public funds and conspiracy, in a case known to Brazilians as the mensalão (big monthly stipend).
Sharing Mr Dirceu’s Brasília prison cell are José Genoino and Delúbio Soares, formerly the PT’s president and treasurer respectively. Henrique Pizzolato, a former director of the state-controlled Banco do Brasil, guilty of laundering some of the money, quietly fled to Italy, where he also has citizenship, some weeks ago. Authorities there have hinted that his extradition would be more likely if Brazil rethought its 2010 decision to shelter Cesare Battisti, an Italian bomber facing a life sentence.
November 19, 2013
The Economist, 11/18/2013
NOVEMBER 15th is a big date in Brazilian history books: on that day in 1889 a military coup overthrew emperor Dom Pedro II and established Brazil as a republic. This year it was significant for another reason. Despite the national holiday the president of the supreme court, Joaquim Barbosa, stayed at his desk and wrote warrants for the arrest of 12 of those convicted last year in the so-called “mensalão” case, several of them high-profile politicians with close links to the government. Eleven spent the weekend in jail; a 12th turned out to have fled to Italy several weeks before. But just what was the mensalão?
The word, a Portuguese neologism roughly meaning “big monthly stipend” was coined to describe clandestine payments made by the Workers’ Party (PT), which won the presidency in 2003, to congressional allies in return for support for its legislative agenda. The scandal broke in 2005 when the president of an allied party claimed in a newspaper interview that the PT was paying several congressmen 30,000 reais a month (around $12,000 at the time). The money was said to have come from the public purse via fake advertising contracts signed by state-owned companies with corrupt advertising firms. The scandal was one of many that broke in quick succession, with others involving allegations that the state-run postal system had accepted bribes for contracts and that the PT had been extorting money from illegal-betting rings in Rio de Janeiro. Overlapping congressional inquiries ended up accusing 18 congressmen of involvement in the vote-buying scheme. The biggest name among them was José Dirceu (pictured right), who had been chief of staff to the president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, until forced by the scandal to step down.
November 18, 2013
BBC News, 11/15/2013
Brazil has started to jail senior figures convicted in the country’s biggest corruption trial, the “Mensalao” (big monthly allowance).
The Supreme Court issued arrest orders for 12 of the 25 politicians, bankers and businessmen convicted last year.
Ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s former chief of staff was among the first to surrender to the police.
The “Mensalao” was a scheme that used public funds to pay coalition parties for political support.
November 18, 2013
BBC News, 11/14/2013
Brazil’s Supreme Court has upheld jail terms against most of the politicians, businessmen and bankers convicted in the country’s biggest corruption trial.
More than 20 people were convicted over a scheme to pay opposition politicians for supporting the former government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The court did not say exactly how many would be put behind bars.
August 30, 2013
The Associated Press, 08/29/2013
Brazil’s supreme court has rejected the request from the ringleader of the nation’s biggest political corruption case to have his sentence reduced.
The top court ruled Thursday that Jose Dirceu’s sentence of 10 years and 10 months stands.
Dirceu is the former chief of staff to ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He is a leftist revolutionary who fought against Brazil’s military regime.
August 13, 2013
Tariq Panja & Francisco Marcelino, 08/12/2013
Brazil’s soccer federation may lose half its 2012 profit following the collapse of a bank that had been at the center of a government graft scandal, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol, or CBF, deposited about 30 million reais ($13.14 million) with Belo Horizonte-based Banco Rural over the last decade, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Brazil’s central bank liquidated Rural this month citing “serious” legal violations.
Rural, which specialized in lending to small and medium-size companies, was closed after “successive losses generated abnormal risk to creditors,” the central bank said Aug. 2.
August 12, 2013
Bruno Góes – O Globo, 08/12/2013
The mensalão trial, the longest in the history of Brazil’s Supreme Court, will initiate analyzing defendants’ evidence this Wednesday. The court will address questions about the 25 defendants who were sentenced and who are now trying to modify the Supreme Court’s prosecution of 37 individuals. On the first day of this phase, congressmen will have to decide on a crucial question : whether or not the conviction of 11 defendants should be reviewed.
Read original article in Portuguese here.
July 1, 2013
Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 07/01/2013
As protests continued in Brazilian streets, three fourths of a sample of 4,717 voters interviewed last week by Datafolha in 196 cities said they want the prison sentences to take effect immediately against twelve people convicted last year of crimes of corruption in the so-called mensalão scandal to take effect immediately.
The case refers to a scheme set up by the administration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) to buy votes in Congress by paying representatives a monthly stipend. After a lengthy national televised trial of the 37 people indicted, Brazil’s Supreme Court returned guilty verdicts against twenty five. Twelve of those received prison sentences – a novelty in Brazil, which is famous for the impunity its political and judicial systems have historically ensured to people in high places through a lengthy appeal process. Among the sentenced to jail terms are José Dirceu de Oliveira, Lula’s first chief of staff and policy coordinator, a former president of his Workers Party (PT) and a former Speaker of the House.
Political corruption was one of the targets of an unprecedented wave of protests that has swept Brazil for the past two and a half weeks and is likely to continue. Significantly, the support for executing the prison sentences returned in the mensalão scandal was uniformly high among voters of all stripes, including those who identified themselves as members or sympathizers of Lula’s Workers Party.
Paulo Sotero is the director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center
Link to original Datafolha poll in Portuguese.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Agencia Senado
December 7, 2012
Joao Fellet, Alessandra Correa – BBC Brasil, 12/07/2012
When, four months ago, Brazil’s Supreme Court began to judge one of the largest political scandals in the country’s recent history, many wondered if the trial could really deliver a decisive blow against corruption.
As the case approaches its end, a total of 25 out of 37 defendants have been convicted, some of them key political figures.
There is still room for those who were convicted to appeal, but few think the court will change its ruling and absolve them.