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Folha | Zeal Is No Big Deal


Topic: Folha ombudsman criticizes Zelotes coverage; RBS denies irregularities

Source: Portal IMPRENSA

By now, no one has failed to see the irony of Globo’s selection as an exclusive outlet for ,the SwissLeaks case in partnership with Universo Online.

Globo affiliate RBS, for example — publisher of the daily Zero Hora — has now been named as potential defendant in the case, even as political allies in the national press have mostly overlooked the fact.

A report published in the most recent Economist pays close attention to Operation Zealotry of the Brazilian federal police, which is investigating an alleged scheme of tax fraud involving R$ 19 billion and operating in the heart of CARF, an agency of the Brazilian Treasury, which it says may “dwarf” the Petrobras corruption scandal, known as Operation Car Wash.

The British weekly pointed out that the amount supposedly skimmed off by the scheme, R$ 19 billion, would pay for 75% of the cost of holding the World Cup in Brazil last year. “This sum is almost half the alleged embezzlement of funds from Petrobras,” the magazine said.


In last Sunday’s column, the ombudsman of the Folha de S.Paulo, Vera Guimarães Martins, criticized the lack of depth in the paper’s coverage of the Zelotes case. Inaugurating the case at the end of March, the Federal Police is investigating one of the largest tax evasion schemes ever uncovered in Brazil. It is suspected that a number of criminal conspiracies worked together with CARF, the Administrative Council of Fiscal Resources, an agency tied to the Treasury, in order to refund or annul tax-related fines.

The term Zelotes comes from “zealot” and refers to someone who feigns diligence. The use of the the term alludes to the contrast between the CARF and its mission to guard the public coffers and defend against financial diversions. The PF says the scheme has already caused at least R$ 6 billion and could read R$ 19 billion. On the list of the cases investigated is the southern media group RBS, the Globo network’s affiliate in the region.

Vera recalls that it was only on April 2, a week after the case broke, that the operation made headlines in the Folha. A day after the story broke, on the other hand, the other major dailies reported the story, though limited to a “modest” treatment.

“The most important scoop so far, the list of major corporations investigated, has been assumed by the competitition,” she wrote.

“Despite the gargantuan sums invited, a scheme of tax evasion like this may not have the same media appeal as the Car Wash cash, which spread through parties and politicians of the first order. It is an error, however, to minimize its importance,” she said.

O Grupo RBS

In all, 74 cases are under analysis by the federal police. According to the Folha, one of the cases in which there are strong indications of wrongdoing is that of the media group RBS.

RBS said in a public statement that it is not aware of any investigation and denies any misbehavior in its relations with the tax authority. RBS added that it has faith in the institutions responsible for clarifying the facts.
nega irregularidades –
The National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ) and the unions representing journalists in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul called for transparency and a rapid response to the investigations in the case.

The uninega irregularidades -ons recall that RBS has a history of convictions for not respecting the rights of its workers and that it is involved in the SwissLeaks case, along with other media groups in Brazil.

“The situation is at a minimum embarrassing, but is above all revealing of the private interests of media vehicles. At the same time as they make speeches in favor of ethical business and social relations, they find themselves involved in the exact same sort of scandals they denounce with heavy emphasis, without taking into account the fragility of evidence or the role played by private interests who seek political and financial advantagees,” according to the FENAJ note.

According to the unions, the RBS cases demonstrate the need to democratize mass communication, “so that society is not taken hostage by business groups interested in imposing a private agenda which is not always based on a commonality of interests.”