December 2, 2013
Simon Romero – The New York Times, 11/26/2013
There were the boxes of Cuban cigars, which cost about $500 each at a shop in Vila Nova Conceição, one of the most exclusive districts of São Paulo, and the $2,260 bottles of Vega Sicilia Único, a legendary Spanish red. Throw in a Porsche Cayenne, speedboat jaunts to tropical islands and all-night soirees with high-end escorts, and what do you get?
The unlikely lifestyle of a Brazilian tax inspector.
In one of the most salacious corruption scandals to captivate Brazil in years, the municipal government of São Paulo, the nation’s largest city, is reeling from revelations of a scheme in which investigators claim that a group of tax inspectors allowed construction companies to evade more than $200 million in taxes in exchange for bribes.
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.”
December 2, 2013
Press TV, 12/01/2013
Marcel Fiche’s resignation was announced by the office of Finance minister Guido Mantega on Saturday.
The decision to step down follows reports that Fiche and his technical advisor allegedly received about USD 25,700 from a communications company in exchange for a contract with the finance ministry.
“I have asked Minister Guido Mantega that I not return to cabinet at the end of my vacations,” Fiche stated in a statement on Friday.
Fiche also said the allegations against him were “lies,” adding that he wanted to contribute to a smooth and rapid investigation.
December 2, 2013
Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 11/28/2013
As many Brazilians are still watching incredulously the imprisonments of the principal figures in the Mensalão (“Big Monthly Payment”) scandal, the scheme in which public funds were used to buy political support for the then-Lula da Silva government and to pay off debts from election campaigns, one of the biggest questions surrounding the imbroglio is: how much money exactly was diverted into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians?
According to the investigation initiated in 2005 and carried out by Brazil’s Public Ministry, the country’s Federal Police and the Brazilian Court of Audit, the huge cash-for-votes case involved some R$ 100 million ($43 million) siphoned from taxpayers’ money. No wonder why Brazil’s Attorney General Roberto Gurgel called it “the most daring and outrageous corruption scheme and embezzlement of public funds ever seen in Brazil.”
And that could just be the tip of the iceberg. A 2010 study by the FIESP (the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State, in its acronym in Portuguese), the average annual cost of corruption in Brazil is between 1.38% to 2.3% of the country’s total GDP. The World Bank lists Brazil in its database with a GDP of $2.253 trillion as of 2012, while the OECD expects Brazil to grow 2.5% this year.
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
Folha de S. Paulo, 11/18/2013
Sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison by Brazil’s Supreme Court for his participation in the mensalão scheme, the former director of Banco do Brasil, Henrique Pizzolato, fled from Brazil to Italy and announced yesterday that he will request a new trial by an Italian court.
A Federal Police team was at this house yesterday searching for him, but his family said they don’t know his whereabouts. Yesterday Pizzolato’s relatives announced to the press that he has been in Italy for 45 days.
Pizzolato’s lawyer in the mensalão trial, Marthius Lobato, said he only was told yesterday that Pizzolato was in Italy and that he didn’t know how Pizzolato left the country. Pizzolato has Italian citizenship and had his European passport confiscated by Brazilian courts last year.
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 12, 2013
Tim Ridout – The Huffington Post, 07/11/2013
Last month, Brazilians took to the streets demanding more from their government. The massive demonstrations were sparked on June 13 by what was widely seen as the excessive use of force to repress a small group that had been protesting against a 20-cent increase in bus fare in Sao Paulo state (roughly $0.09). Some protesters viewed media coverage as dismissive and biased, which further fueled popular anger, especially against media giant TV Globo. [Note: most sources are in English, but this and some others are in Portuguese.]
Bus fares have since been reduced in cities across Brazil, but the protests were never just about bus fare. They were about public services, corruption, and the framework of Brazil’s democratic system. All three are intertwined. The protests have since calmed, but it is unlikely that they are finished.
Professor Andre Singer, a political scientist at Sao Paulo University, argues that it was not the poorest Brazilians that took to the streets. Many of the initial protesters came from the ranks of the established middle class: young, more conservative, and urban. These protesters were soon joined by what he refers to as the “new proletariat,” young people who are not solidly middle class but who have employment due to the policies of “Lulism,” a reference to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
July 11, 2013
The Economist, 07/11/2013
BRAZILIANS have taken to the streets for many reasons over the past few weeks, but it’s safe to say that few things ranked higher on their long list of grievances than a loathing of their politicians and political parties. Yet Brazil’s political class is nothing if not canny. In the days following the protests, politicians rushed to show contrition, offering not only to postpone their recess, but also passing a series of high-profile bills they had previously rejected or ignored.
“They know exactly what is happening on the streets,” says Sylvio Costa, Director of Congresso Em Foco (Congress in Focus), an independent website that monitors parliament. “When there is popular pressure they go with the flow because they are petrified. They want the public off their backs and they want to get re-elected.”
But there’s a reason only 12% of Brazilians have any confidence in Congress, and it didn’t take long before the right honourable men and women in Brasilia reminded them why. Even as thousands of their countrymen were dodging tear gas and police cordons to protest against corruption and graft, senior politicians were using official aircraft to fly across the country to football matches and weddings, sometimes even taking family members with them. Caught red-handed, the speaker of the Senate, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and the minister of social security all admitted wrongdoing and said they will reimburse taxpayers.