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Taiana Bares All | Brazil’s Operation Car Wash

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Photo: Autumn Sonnichsen/ Divulgação Playboy

Wearing high heels and covered in dollar bills, the former lover of the currency trader [Youssef] appears on the cover of the January edition of Playboy posing in hotel rooms and private jets. She told the magazine that she was “the first person he messaged after he was arrested.”

As I have noted before, every knock down drag out political scandal has its muse or poster child — a figure, usually an attractive woman who, to coin a phrase, “lays bare the facts” or some such analogy as that.

As Veja and Playboy are both Abril publications, it is not difficult to imagine how Taiana became the Goddess of Truth. Create a poster child with scandalous overtones  Divert attention from other significant  aspects of the case until you can measure the results and decide how — and against whom — to proceed.

Mountains of Money

This meme is a close cousin to the Mountain of Money concept in South American news media, itself a corollary to  the Perp Walk — a standard procedure for Brazilian police.

In Ecuador several years ago in an election won by the leftist Rafael Correa, the viciousness of the smear campaign by the local media was astonishing. Mobilized against Correa,  Ecuadoran TV and radio in general have to be seen to be believed , as is, or was, the case in Venezuela.

A case I remember well was an anti-Chavist talk show host who displayed a parking lot full of colorful HMMVVVs and identified them as constituting bribes to members of the government. A clever researcher was able to pin down the exact location of the photo — a HMMMVV dealership in Southern California. A sign was crudely Photoshopped in an attempt to identify the parking lot as government property in Venezuela. Grotesque.

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Nassif on Car Wash | The Tipping Point?

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Operation Car Wash is on its way to becoming a pivotal moment in the political history of Brazil, decisively dismantling a political, judicial and economic model that flourished over the past four decades.

Starting with the financial liberalization of the 1970s, an enormous gray zone of banks in fiscal paradises sprouted up, fed with the proceeds of financial crimes, narcotraffic, the trafficking of persons, political corruption — an enormous archipelago of corruption from which investment banks, currency traders and offshore funds pontificated [on matters financial].

***

In this period, various forms of public corruption germinated, the crudest of which had always to do with tenders for public works and government spending.

More sophisticated schemes were practiced during the era of privatization, with the manipulation of municipal bonds, the exchange of privileged information on currency and tax rates as part of [“pump and dump”] operations in  the stock market.

An ecosystem flourished in which all the political and governmental groups could feed their appetites. Denouncing these schemes only made the headlines in the service of opportunistic political games — all in all, a vast spectacle of hypocrisy.

***

The reaction to this trend had its beginnings in the central nations, with their anti-money laundering (AML) and corporate corruption laws.

In order to arrive at our own Operation Car Wash, we had to run a veritable obstacle course, with previous operations that were aborted by the powerful influence of special interests in all branches of the government — the executive, the judiciary, the legislative and the establishment media.

The congressional inquiry (CPI) of the Municipal Bonds ended in a cozy deal, as did the CPIs of Banestado,  Satiagraha and Sand Castles, because they would have exposed politicians of all political parties, powerful corporate lobbies, and financiers.

***

The status quo changed little with the inauguration of Lula in 2003.

Major investment banks continued profiting from their participation in municipal fixed-income contracts, betting on new world champions, while the strategy of the PT was to assign its best operators to negotiate with the underworld behind the grandest business groups which, to date, had only opened its wallets for the PSDB.

***

Whether the needs of governability really required this strategy, future historians will have to say.

What is important is that Car Wash has broken the cycle of impunity under the current way of doing politics.

None of the major parties will escape this web of corruption. There is no room for opportunistic maneuvers. The leading figures of the PSDB are just as involved as the operators of the PT. The advent of the social networks has put an end to the heavy armor the party has reliably provided it.

I was shocked when I read that a Supreme Court Justice criticized by Nassif and the staff of Carta Capital had taken the time out of the official reading of his decision in the ratification of campaign accounts to personally assail Nassif.

I am an occasional Web interlocutor of Nassif — I have read his “The Spreadsheet Heads” and his series on the corruption of journalistic ethics at Veja magazine — but I have to say it: His site is a little unsightly and does not look like an A-list blog. It is mostly just another Ning community of the kind your local children’s soccer team might set up in 15 minutes. But it works.

And so it is a grand day here in Sambodia when the little boy tells his mother that the emperor wears no clothes. Your character, the character of your enemy, that sort of thing.

***

Here, then, some complex paradoxes arise.

If it is partial (partisan) and not complete, and if it permits opportunism, the results of the operation will be less trusted.

If it heats up the iron and investigates everyone, no matter who gets hurt, it will shut down national politics.

***

It is not up to prosecutors and police officials to define the limits of the Car Wash affair. It is the prerogative of political actors to offer ways out of the grandest political impasse in the democratic history of Brazil.

It is urgent that these proceedings result in radical proposals in election law, the criminal code, and the Constitution itself.

May the gods of wisdom guide attorney-general Geral Rodrigo Janot and his courageous team through the Car Wash case.

swatch

You can also read about Watch Dog Journalism in South America for a much more reasonable price.

Deep Float | Petrobras Underwater, Fire

A napkin outline of the Pasadena scheme

A back of the napkin outline of the Pasadena scheme

Item.

There is curiosity today as to the identity of a “deep throat” witness in the Petrobras corruption megascandal.

One month after Operation Car Wash was carried out, in the middle of this year, a career public servant with 30 years of service approached federal agents in charge of the task force and denounced Petrobras for ignoring “signs of criminal behavior” and “intentional mismanagement” inside the state-run petroleum giant “in order to divert funds without awakening the suspicions of auditors and inspectors.”

Together with the acquisition of the Pasadena Refinery in the U.S. – the most emblematic of the charges involving the case — the witness named former Mines and Energy minister Edson Lobão as the “godfather” of one of the suspects and [alleged that] current Petrobras CEO Graça Foster was responsible for the nomination of two other senior executives in the foreign trade division, supposedly responsible for a sale of assets to Nigeria that had led to losses for the company.

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Was it a note with awful grammar from some General Nigeriano Ubuntu offering you a handsome sum for laundering some huge amount of cash through your account?

This is the Nigerian Third World Corruption scam. Purge it from your e-mail client. A variant is the wealthy but oppressed damsel in distress, for those more responsive to an emotional stimulus, and might be called the Rwandan Woman in Fear for her Life gambit.

During a four-hour closed session held on April 28 in Rio de Janeiro, – the transcript was appended to the Car Wash case file on Tuesday — the «informant», whose name will not be released during continuing investigations, described six cases of alleged criminal misconduct, chief among them the acquisition of  Pasadena, initiated in 2005. The deal, valued at US$ 359 million at the outset, wound up cost US$ 1,2 bilhão, causing Petrobras to suffer a US$ 793 million, according to the federal accounting tribunal (TCU).

[ … translation to come …]

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Grupo Abril | Required Reading Requisition

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The Abril publishing and media group has a long, proud history of adherence to that Golden Rule of the mainstream Brazilian media: “For our friends, anything; for our enemies, the Law.”

It began its life franchising Walt Disney content for Portuguese-speaking readers, which makes for an interesting but at the moment irrelevant story.

The group has been diversifying through M&A in recent years and months,  including the purchase of two  major schoolbook titles and a (rumored) relationship with the Huffington Post  (news item) to assist it with its Web operations (which badly need some purely technical attention, if I may say so). Sometime in the last few years it sold 30% of itself to the South African Naspers — a factory for churned out apartheid presidents in South Africa for decades — a couple of years ago.

Fazendo Media, a modest Ford Foundation-funded watchdog project, explains how politics and the press walk hand in hand like Tweedle Dum and Dee. See also:

Source:  Rede Brasil Atual, Fazendo Media

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Huffington | Since April, Seems to Flower

huffpo

Inside the boundaries of a rural tract of land belonging to a presidential candidate, an airstrip capable of receiving planes with up to 50 passengers.  Some $7 million in public funds went into the construction.

It gives me a mild shock when the first messenger arrives with the tidings: It is the Brazilian franchise of the Huffington Post.

The revelation that a public airport managed by relatives of Aécio Neves poured fuel on the fire in the Neves campaign. The National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) released a statement today (July 22) stating that it will notify the state government of Minas about the case and that it will investigate possible irregularities at the airport in Cláudio (Minas Gerais).

In the bunker of Muda Brasil“time for a change” — commanded by Neves, ANAC’s response to negative front-page coverage by the Folha de S. Paulo was interpreted as a political ploy.

Senior Neves advisors believe that the public machine is being used in favor of the incumbent Dilma Rousseff.

“This time around the abuses used to support the Workers Party is ANAC. This type of conduct is banned by election law,” said Carlos Sampaio (PSDB-SP), Muda Brasil general counsel.

The PSDB said it would take ANAC to court at the federal elections tribunal along with Dilma, charging that she “persecutes political opponents of the government.”

The agency said it would take “the proper steps” if the Folha story was true. ANAC added that it will inspect other airports that may be “receiving irregular operations.”

The Neves campaign says the licensing of the Cláudio airport, built by the state government of Minas Gerais, is and has been legal and transparent.

ANAC says it will perform an inspection to verify that the technical requirements were met during construction before it issues an operating license. Once cleared by the Air Force, the premises may be opened to the public. According to the Folha, Dilma’s campaign has stated it will file charges of improprieties with the public prosecutor.

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Rio Rackets | Big Wheel Keeps on Turning

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Source: G1

The state attorney of Goias filed charges this week against 28 police officers suspected of affording favorable treatment to the criminal racket commanded by Carlos Augusto de Almeida Ramos — aka Charlie Waterfall.

According to the indictment, these officers were paid in cash and other benefits to overlook evidence or even actively boycott investigation of a gambling and corruption organization revealed by Operation Monte Carlo, a police action dating back to February 2012.

The 28 police were charged with active and passive corruption and  violation of confidentiality policies. Prosecutors say the police group was “the armed faction of the criminal organization.”

The case will be heard by a military court.

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Alstom Case | Information “Round-Filed” For Years

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Source: Jornal do Brasil

Federal lawmakers file suit against former attorney-general Rodrigo de Grandis. The parliamentarians demand an explanation for the postponement of a request for assistance from Swiss prosecutors.

The explanation given so far: The documents were filed in the wrong envelope and then lost and forgotten. I kid you not.

Workers Party legislators are due to file suit with the National Council of the Public Ministry (CNMP) this Friday against prosecutor Rodrigo De Grandis on the suspicion that he delayed acting on a request from Swiss authorities regarding the possible involvement of ranking Toucans — Social Democrats — in an international crime scheme. The collaborative effect was intended to examine the formation of a cartel involving Siemens and Alstom in contracts with the commuter railway, the Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM).

The petition comes with the signature of the leader of the PT benches in the lower house, José Guimarães (CE), as well as deputies Ricardo Berzoini (SP) and Edson Santos (RJ). In the document, they ask for a true explanation of the violations of legal principles that a preliminary probe has already revealed. The document requests that if the charges are true, then de Grandis should be held responsible for a crime of omission in the investigation of the the CPTM cartel.

The PT deputies want more information on the fact that de Grandis [literally] buried the case. Deputy Renato Simões (PT-SP) says de Grandis failed to live up to his duties as a prosecutor, disrupting an investigation and refusing to collaborate with the Swiss, an action that needs a better explanation.

This weekend, information published in the press indicates that Rodrigo de Grandis [“round-filed”] the case starting in 2010 — and not just this case. He dragged his feet in eight more cases despite repeated requests for cooperation from the Swiss. The Swiss agency MOP discovered financial transactions by the consultantsArthur Teixeira, Sérgio Teixeira and José Amaro Pinto Ramos, all three suspected of brokering bribes, as well as the  ex-director of the CPTM, João Roberto Zaniboni, suspected of having gotten away with R$ 18.4 million from Alstom.

Folha de S. Paulo and its publisher Otavio Frias were uncharacteristically harsh in a case in which it, too, might be said to have swept a few facts under the rug:

A harsh editorial in the Frias family newspaper, calls the excuse that the file requesting the assistance of Swiss prosecutors looking into a case that involves bribery and the social democratic party.

“No investigation work has been done, then. And the reason given for this act of omission defies the credibility of even the most naive of us. They say they the request from the Swiss was misfiled. Or so says the prosecutor responsible for the case in Brazil, Rodrigo de Grandis,” the editorial says. “Let us not just leave it at that so that the Toucan train can roll on to its all too familiar destination: impunity.”

The Minister of Justice, Cardozo, says de Grandis failed to take action as ordered on several occasions.

Uma nota oficial do Ministério da Justiça, divulgada na noite de ontem, joga por terra a alegação do procurador Rodrigo de Grandis e do Ministério Público de que também teria havido falhas do governo federal na cooperação com autoridades suíças em relação ao caso Alstom, empresa que distribuiu propinas a personagens ligados ao PSDB para obter contratos milionários nos setores de transporte e energia em São Paulo. A equipe de José Eduardo Cardozo esclareceu ainda que o procurador Rodrigo de Grandis foi alertado em diversas oportunidades para tomar providências. Leia abaixo:

Brasília, 1º/11/2013 – Em relação à nota da Procuradoria-Geral da República, o Ministério da Justiça esclarece que não houve qualquer falha na tramitação dos pedidos de cooperação oriundos da Suíça referentes ao denominado Caso Alstom.

Os mencionados pedidos de cooperação foram encaminhados, desde março de 2010, à então Assessoria de Cooperação Internacional da Procuradoria Geral da República (atual Secretaria de Cooperação Internacional). Ressalta-se que este procedimento ocorre com todo e qualquer pedido recebido de países estrangeiros pelo Departamento de Recuperação de Ativos e Cooperação Jurídica (DRCI) e são direcionados à Procuradoria Geral da República para cumprimento.

Os únicos ofícios que foram encaminhados somente ao Procurador da República, Rodrigo de Grandis, foram seis reiterações dos pedidos iniciais, como forma de cobrar o andamento do pedido, procedimento adotado pelo Departamento.

Considerando este cenário, não procede a informação de que haveria tido falha no envio do pedido.

Jose Dirceu accused de Grandis of politicizing the case

News of an internal investigation of de Grandis is in th papers today: the Folha, the Estadão and Valor. “Rodrigo de Grandis did not comply with requests from Swiss authorities,” reads a subhed in the Folha. “Internal affairs wants to know why Rodrigo de Grandis did not comply with the request for assistance from the Swiss in the Alstom case, read a headline in the Estadão.

No episódio comprova-se mais uma vez a seletividade do Ministério Público nas investigações. E da cobertura da imprensa, que habitualmente dá pouquíssimo espaço ao caso – e nenhum, quando envolve o procurador De Grandis. Já a palavra dele próprio, entrevista, etc… – nada. Habitualmente exibido e falador quando é para atacar a honra alheia, ele agora se esconde da mídia.

Tampouco sua “distração” em relação ao pedido da Suíça, à investigação, motiva menções nos jornais a nomes de políticos e governadores tucanos em cujas administrações se formou o conluio em torno do cartel. Já quando os casos envolvem o PT o nome do partido e de seus integrantes vai para as manchetes, títulos, legendas, chamadas, textos – vai em tudo.

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