Posted to Google Documents: My (hasty) translation of a June 7, 2006 article in CartaCapital magazine on the espionage charges against Daniel Valente Dantas, founding partner of Opportunity, the “brilliant but controversial” Brazilian and Caymans financial services group.
I have been working on completing my scrapbook on the case after a profile of the “quiet Brazilian,” Dantas, appeared in The Economist last week, provoking a fair amount of local comment here in Sambodia, most of it indignant and amused.
The Dismal Scientist, in a profile that ran under the a section called “face value” — is taking things at “face value” really the sort of critical journalism one is willing to pay a little extra on the cover price for? — had written:
At the root of it all, Mr Dantas alleges, is the need for politicians to siphon off money for election campaigns, and those who refuse to co-operate become targets. The latest accusations made by the federal police against Mr Dantas—which centre on the laundering of public money and the offering of bribes to be excluded from an investigation—are, he says, just a continuation of this campaign. This led to the freezing of funds on September 11th. If he is right, then the Brazilian press is wrong. But innocent or guilty, it seems increasingly likely that Mr Dantas will avoid conviction, not least because of the irregular way in which the police have conducted their operation.
As I commented on the Web site there — and they published it, to my amazement –
… while “lynch mob” journalism really is a chronic malaise of the Brazilian press, there is also no denying that a very substantial portion of local reporting on the case focuses, as you also chose to do, on alleged irregularities in that investigation rather than on the presumption of Dantas’ guilt. If Dantas skates on these charges, a very substantial portion of the Brazilian media will, in fact, be proven RIGHT, I would say. I am not as convinced as you are that he will, however.
I base that evaluation on the amount of coverage — a staggering amount — that tends to reinforce the defense theory in the most recent Dantas case, according to which the investigation is tainted by irregular investigation practices and should be thrown out.
Including the attempted bribery charge, which really looks to me like the most difficult charge to explain away.
To put it bluntly: A lot of news sources that routinely misinform me are asking me to believe that there was something fatally flawed about the federal investigation of Dantas in this case.
The best bet seems to be to disbelieve those with a track record of misinforming you.
Therefore, I lay you 3 free beers to 2: Stick a fork in the guy. Sooner or later, he’s done.
Some journalism student should do a media study counting up the column inches devoted to alleged wrongdoing by Dantas and alleged wrongdoing by the police, prosecutors and judges who charged Dantas.
Those who charge that there is a concerted, and very successful, campaign underway to prosecute the prosecutors of Dantas are not just making this theory up out of thin air, I would say.
What continues to interest me more than any of the political or commercial implications of the case, however, are the allegations of manipulation of the press by all sides to the dispute.
In this reading of a set of correspondence between Kroll and Carla Cico, Dantas associate and president of Brasil Telecom when Opportunity managed it, you read that the Dantas group thought the Jornal do Brasil, owned by a business rival, was slanting coverage in order to ratfink him, for example.
He might even have been right. At one point, Tanure — who also owns the Gazeta Mercantil business daily — and Dantas were reportedly vying to buy out the distressed Editora Três, publisher of the (jaw-droppingly awful, Leonardo Attuch-employing) IstoÉ Dinheiro weekly, for example.
In any event, the recurring theme here is the use of PR and coopted journalists to attack the credibility of opponents by any means, fair or foul. Take this grotesque example of sophomoric “trolling” in forums for Brazilian investigative journalists:
But the solution Kroll found was to hire Portuguese spy Tiago Verdial, based in Rio, who infiltrated the online forum of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (Abraji) to disseminate information favorable to Dantas to Brazilian journalists. In conversations with other journalists, he always asked whether Telecom Italia had paid bribes to official of the Lula government. He wound up being arrested by the federal police.
As Leandro Fortes points out, none of the activities described in these e-mails bear on the crux of the criminal case filed against Dantas in 2004 or so, which involves illegal wiretapping.
What we mostly read about here is a combination of public-record background checks on people (nothing necessarily illegal about that) and public relations campaign (nothing illegal about that, necessarily, except insofar as slander and libel laws come into play).
The most garish example of “character assassination” in the case is referred to here only in passing: The publication of a “dossier” by Veja magazine according to which both former federal police chief and current federal Senator Romeu Tuma and current head Tupi fed Paulo Lacerda — recently suspended from the leadership of the “Brazilian CIA,” ABIN, on suspicion of ordering the bugging of the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court (a charge, also initiated by Veja magazine (Veja lies) that gets flimsier by the minute) — had bribe-stuffed offshore bank accounts.
- Nassif, In Disbelief: “The Phony Dossier,” or, Ecce Veja
- Veja (Brazil): Behind the Scenes of an “Exemplary” Investigative Report
This was a jaw-dropping piece of amateurishly ginned-up phony untruth — as was Veja‘s justification for running it in the first place. (Actually, come to think of it, Veja‘s justification was even phonier and more incoherent that the rigged-up dossier itself.)
My translation, in PDF format: