Prison terms strike a blow against political corruption in Brazil

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.”

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Jailed at last

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.

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What is Brazil’s “mensalão”?

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.

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Brazil mensalão trial: former chief of staff jailed

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.

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Brazil mensalão trial: supreme court upholds jail terms

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.

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Brazil court nixes leniency for scandal ringleader

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.

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Brazil soccer body may lose half of 2012 profit in bank failure

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.

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