Brazil to investigate ex-president Lula in vote-buying scandal

Reuters, 04/06/2013

Brazilian federal prosecutor has opened an investigation into allegations that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was involved in a vote-buying scheme in Congress that led to the conviction of close aides for corruption.

The federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement late on Friday it asked the federal police to probe accusations of a businessman at the centre of the corruption case, Marcos Valerio, who alleged that Lula not only knew about the illegal scheme but received money from it.

Lula has repeatedly denied the allegations that he knew of the vote-buying scandal known as the “mensalão,” under which operatives from the ruling Workers’ Party paid lawmakers in Congress to back the government’s legislative agenda. The scandal, which erupted in 2005, almost brought down Lula’s government at the time and led to the biggest political corruption trial in Brazilian history.

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Brazil: prosecutor to analyze testimony by suspect about former president

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 01/09/2013

The prosecutor general, Roberto Gurgel, said Wednesday that he would analyze testimony in which a businessman convicted in an embezzlement and vote-buying scheme tied Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to the scandal.

The businessman, Marcos Valério de Souza, received a 40-year sentence in October after he was found to have operated much of the scheme, the mensalão, or “big monthly allowance,” named after payments received by legislators.

The Supreme Court’s trial of suspects in the scheme resulted in the conviction of senior figures, including Mr. da Silva’s former chief of staff, who was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison. In testimony, Mr. de Souza said he deposited funds in 2003 for Mr. da Silva’s “personal spending,” in an account controlled by another aide to the former president. After Mr. de Souza’s assertion, Mr. da Silva said he could not “respond to a lie.” Mr. Gurgel said no decision had been made on a formal investigation.

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A healthier menu

The Economist, 12/22/2012

SO RARELY has political corruption led to punishment in Brazil that there is an expression for the way scandals peter out. They “end in pizza”, with roughly the same convivial implication as settling differences over a drink. But a particularly brazen scandal has just drawn to a surprisingly disagreeable close for some prominent wrongdoers. The supreme-court trial of the mensalão (big monthly stipend), a scheme for buying votes in Brazil’s Congress that came to light in 2005, ended on December 17th. Of the 38 defendants, 25 were found guilty of charges including corruption, money-laundering and misuse of public funds. Many received stiff sentences and large fines.

The supreme court must still write its report on the trial, and hear appeals—though it is unlikely to change its mind. So in 2013 Brazilians should be treated to an unprecedented sight: well-connected politicos behind bars. José Dirceu, who served as chief of staff to the former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was sentenced to almost 11 years; Delúbio Soares, former treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), got almost nine. Under the penal code, at least part of such long sentences must be served in jail. The justices also decided that the three federal deputies found guilty will automatically lose their seats if and when those verdicts are confirmed.

Lula was not charged, and has always insisted he knew nothing of the scheme. But Marcos Valério, a former advertising man sentenced to 40 years, claims to have evidence that Lula knew what was going on, and that some of the dirty money paid his personal expenses. These allegations may be merely a desperate attempt by a condemned man to bargain down his jail term. The attorney-general characterised Mr Valério as a “player”, and said his claims should be treated with caution. But if he has significant new evidence the mensalão may yet rumble on.

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Brazil’s attorney general says he’ll look into allegations against popular ex-president

AP/Fox News, 12/19/2012

Brazil’s attorney general said Wednesday he will look into allegations that  popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva knew about a massive  cash-for-votes scheme in Congress that led to the recent convictions of 25  people in a landmark trial.

Roberto Gurgel said he’ll examine statements by businessman Marcos Valerio  that Silva approved of the so-called “mensalao” monthly payout scheme and that  he used cash from it for personal expenses while in office. Silva denies the  allegations.

Valerio was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison and fined $1.3 million  for being what the Supreme Court called the “operator” of the scheme that gave  legislators cash handouts in return for their support of Silva’s policies after  he took office in 2003. Valerio made the allegations against Silva in testimony  to federal prosecutors last September, after he was already convicted but before  he was sentenced. His detractors say that indicates his testimony cannot be  taken seriously.

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