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The Other R$ 200 Million Bribery Scandal | São Paulo TCE

Robson Marinho

Robson Marinho

Item:  Judge freezes R$ 282 million in assets of Alstom and Robson Marinho.

Ricardo Kotscho comments.

None of our newspapers carried the headline, but they should have done. It deserves one. The case dates from 1998, under Governor Mário Covas of the PSDB. It is only now that the courts have decided to act in an attempt to recover millions in losses suffered by the public treasury because of the cartel formed by multinational corporations and civil servants, the scandal known as the «trensalão.

The term riffs on the vote-buying scandal known as the «mensalão» — of which there are two, the original «mensalão» and the «mensalão of Minas Gerais.»  The Petrobras scandal is the «petrolão». The particle «-alão» has become what “-gate” is in our popular speech.

At long last, on Monday, judge Maria Gabriella Pavlópoulos Spaolonzi … ordered the freezing of assets in the amount of R$ 282 million of former Covas chief of staff and currently suspended from the state tax tribunal, as well as the French multinational and others.

Though similar in “modus operandi” to the “Petrolão of the PT,” investigated since last year and jailing a number of persons, the «Toucan trensalão» has not received due attention and swift action from the courts and the news media, reflecting once more the selective character of information about the corruption schemes that afflict the nation.

In the Folha de S. Paulo the judge’s decree did not even deserve a call-out on the front page, and wound up as a brief item hidden in a corner of Page A10, written in an almost apologetic tone, under the headline “Justice freezes assets of Robson Marinho of TCE”.

The reader who does know Marinho’s past or even what the TCE is, or recognize the term “Trensalão,” just skips over it.

In the rival Estadão, the item deserved a call-out and slightly more emphasis on an inside page, providing more details, but without at any time referring to a “scandal, em valores atualizados em valores atualizados” or citing the nickname by which the case has become popularly known.

Just to remind us: a founder of the PSDB and close aide to Mário Covas, Marinho was chief of staff from 1995 to 1997 and was  named to the state Accounting Tribunal (TCE) in 1998, when this episode began, 17 years ago. According to the ESP, “the magistrate is suspected of having received US$2.7 million in bribes from Alstom between 1998 and 2005 (US$ 3.059 million in current values)”.

Prosecutors Silvio Antonio Marques, José Carlos Blat and Marcelo Daneluzzi accuse Robson Marinho of improper self-enrichment, money laundering, and having participated in a “scheme to rob public funds.” In the prosecution of the case the prosecutors requested the freezing of R$ 1.129 billion, a sum reflecting the damages caused by the defendants and a fine. …

“There is powerful proof of a corruption scheme that involves the accounting tribunal magistrate and large corporations,” says Blat. In his defense, Marinho denied everything.

Because the order is subject to appeal, it is not certain when this story will come to an end. No one has been arrested, but now, at least — and it is about time — the Toucan «trensalão» is emerging from the dark before the statute of limitations can run and the case forgotten.

The Globo network did dedicate 27 second segment on the episode during the Jornal Nacional, together with a detailed history of the case on the Web page of the video clip.