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Siemens Case | Seize The Moral High Ground


Source: Blog da Cidadania.

Topic: Siemens insinuates Alckmin “covers up” corrupção

São Paulo — As public attention remains focused on the trial of the “payola of the PT” and growing evidence that the scandal is being treated with uncommon rigor by the national news media, the attorney-general and the Supreme Court, another scandal, involving billions of reais and evidence against ranking politicians, has passed unnoticed.

Billions of reais are involved in a corruption scheme that has turned the daily commute of millions of metro area passengers into a daily torture session in the worst subway system in the world in terms of overcrowding.

Just to give you an idea, the small São Paulo subway car (74.2 km2) transports 11 passengers per km2. The international standard is 6 km2). For this reaons, the Folha de S. Paulo says, the city’s subway is the most overcrowded in the world. 

In August, IstoÉ magazine denounced the scandal of overbilling on subway projects and the acquisition of trains had dragged on since the state governorship of Mario Covas and on into the José Serra and Geraldo Alckmin administration. These accusations arose in 2008, however, and since then, investigations by the state government, responsible for the transport sector, have not only failed, but has blocked investigations.

The opposition to Governor Alckmin has tried to mount five CPIs — parliamentary commissions — on the topic and all were barred on his express orders.

The scandal of the São Paulo railways involves companies like Alstom of France and Siemens of Germany, among others. One of the most striking cases emerged in 2009, a year after the first accusations against Alstom — reflecting the confidence of the PSDB São Paulo in its own impunity.

A passage from a recent article by Conceição Lemes, who has been working on an investigative piece on this enormous scandala, illustrates the dimensions of the spectacular swindle.

“(…) In 2009, during the Serra governorship, the Metrô announced an auction for the refurbishment of 96 trains of the Line 1-Blue and Line 3-Red for a total of R$ 1,75 billion. According to official contracts, a new train cost R$ 23 million and the renovated train, R$ 17 million. That is to say, the renovated trains cost 86% of a new train … 

Throughout this entire period, the “rigorous” Brazilian press avoided clearly naming names, unlike its practice when the scandal involves the PT — with the exception of IstoÉ and some blogs and Web sites.

In August of this year, however, in absence of an official investigation, Siemens took the initiative of going to the antitrust regulator CADE to confess that its internal controls had detected that some of its senior executives had corrupted the São Paulo government.

The most scandalous aspect of the whole case what that it took a bribe-payer to confess its own crimes in exchange for a plea agreement in which Siemens would be spared sanctions because it revealed obscure dealings it had with the PSDB Paulista.

Now that that the door had been kicked in, in August, after the Siemens confession and the articles in IstoÉ, the Alckmin government — after ordering its legislators in the state assembly to bar all opposition requests for a CPI — installed an “investigation” of its own in the State Comptroller-General, (CGA) which he controls politically.

Alckmin’s Comptroller-General, however, has mounted [a Potemkin village] with the support of the major news media. Globo’s Jornal Nacional, for example, ran a piece last Tuesday that tries to convince the view that the government of São Paulo is investigating alongside the federal police and the prosecutor (MP).

In this segment, São Paulo state comptroller-genral Gustavo Úngaro, a subordinate in the Alckmin government, tries to mislead viewers, saying “Of all the suspected companies, the only one that is not colaborating is Siemens” and that he “recommended that the subway system and commuter rail companies immediately initiate administrative proceedings against the company, barring it from participation in future tender offers.”

The federal CGU — comptroller-general of the union — is also involved in the case, by the way.

But the co-called investigation the state government is pushing, and which the media are treating as if it were serious, is nothing but political theater.

It is a bit like presenting the Lula government as the chief investigator of the “payola of the PT” scandal.

Siemens, on the other hand, reacted harshly to the Alckmin government’s gambit.

In a note, it explains that it did not provide statements to the Toucan comptroller because its plea bargain agreement contains a non-disclosure provision, which it is respecting. …

The Siemens note is crushing. It explains that it was itself the source of the information on wrongdoing in the case and that the conduct of Alckmin’s comptroller — that is to say, of the governor himself — creates “an atmosphere contrary to transparency and dialogue, and ends up benefiting those who decide to hide their misconduct.”

Globo and the rest of the major press – and especially in São Paulo – know very well that Siemens cannot give the Toucan governor the information he wants because its deal with CADE obliges it keep this information out of reach of the very government under investigation, which, with a revolting effrontery is trying to pose as the “investigator.”