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Federal Police | Loan Sharking in Maranhão


Source:  Diario de Pernambuco.

In Maranhão, 90% of the municipalities are under federal police investigation for misappropriation of  funds. That is to say, 195 of 217 municipalities in the state are under suspicion.

The mayors of cities in Maranhão have become fertile ground for loan sharking schemes involving public funds raised by bid-rigging, the distribution of blank checks by city officials and bank withdrawals in the millions of reais.

The case is known as Operation Blank Check.

 Among the first to be investigated in the initial phase of operations, 32 municipalities are involved. State institutions say they are working hard to combat this drain on the taxes of the citizenry.

The State Federation of Municipalities of Maranhão (FAMEM), said, through its president, Gil Cutrim (PMDB), that it repudiates firmly any type of corrupt practice in the municipalities, whether in Maranhão or other states. He said his desire was that the accusations currently under investigation, as reported by local media, be thoroughly carried out.

Gil Cutrim says that FAMEM is collaborating by promoting actions to train mayors to base their actions on transparency and the legitimate use of public assets.

Besides the free technical training given to mayors and their administrations, FAMEM is creating the pioneering program Município em Foco, in which it plans to meet with public managers in the state to debate adedquate, efficient public management for every region in the State,”Cutrim says.

MinFoco is inspired by the federal news service Congresso em Foco.

The bureaucrat goes on singing the praises of these initiatives.

O Município em Foco surgiu da vontade dos próprios prefeitos e prefeitas, que desejavam um contato mais direto com a Famem. Através deste evento, a entidade descentraliza suas ações levando para todas as regiões do Estado informações importantes sobre a boa e correta gestão pública”, declarou Cutrim.

Para ele, a iniciativa da Famem tem caráter pedagógico e informativo e aborda em suas edições temas relacionados à otimização da administração pública, tais como compras governamentais; formalização de programas e convênios; controle e transparência dos gastos públicos; consórcio público intermunicipal; resíduos sólidos; Siconv; previdência própria; dentre outros.

What an instructive experience, in which 90% of the cities in the northern state — home to the Sarney empire — have failed to learn that it is easy to get caught. 

Federal Agenices

The federal accounting tribunal (TCU) , represented by its external control agent for Maranhão, Alexandre Walraven, said the  TCU has partnered with federal police, contributing information on accounting irregularities …[but] the TCU says it is not directly participating in the loan sharking portion of the case, because misconduct this is not a crime or irregularity in accounting records.

The TCU will bow to the jurisdiction of the federal police after going through the books..

Operation Blank Check, carried out on September 27, served  10 arrest warrants, among them eight city managers (ex-mayors and ex-municipal secretaries) and two local businessmen, accused of running the loan sharking scheme.

Proof of misappropriation in seven municipalities was presented: Arari, Serrano do Maranhão, Pedro do Rosário, Paulo Ramos, Cajapió, Vitória do Mearim and Turilândia. The seven ex-mayors gave statements to the police.

PF agent Luís André Almeida explained that these persons might feel intimidated by the massive number of charges against them  Of the other 25 municipalities that form part of the inquiry, investigations continue and should become more active in order to produce results like those revealed on Friday.

“These city managers go into debt in order to ascend to a civil service job or political post, together with [or as the agent of]] the gang of loan sharks. Repaying the loans made use of through bid-rigging schemes that diverted federal, city and state funds.

The most astonishing aspect is the means of payment. Many issued signed, blank checks or proxies for withdrawals , which provided the gang with control of the city’s finances. “It was a veritable transfer of risk and responsibility,” he said.

Police are trying to discover the precise moment when the mayors received assets from the loan sharks — was it before or after taking the oath of office? 

This question affects the legal procedures to be follows. A mayor has “privileged forum” and can not be tried by a court of the first instance, for instance. 

The mayors could be tried for corruption, misappropriation, money laundering and criminal conspiracy. The case dates back to July of this year, but the investigation covers mandates served between 2007 and 2011. The names of the suspects could not be revealed because the case is under a gag order.

The federal prosecutor has been continuously charging municipal managers who misused public funds, over the last 15 days. At least three were punished and the money returned. Fines are applied to serve as an example to other municipal executives.