November 1, 2012 Leave a comment
A millionaire fraud affects six electoral courts who moved 1.5 billion euros through questionable practices.
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 1, 2012
Corruption has never been as closely associated with Brazil as it is today. That is not because Brazil wasn’t sufficiently corrupt in the past, but because given its new position in the world – as one of the fastest growing and most attractive markets for foreign investment – the country has been put more often than not under the magnifying glass. Brazil will host the FIFA soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 in what seems to be its launch into global relevance. Before, Brazil has only been know for its Samba, naked parading women and extreme poverty.
However, as the country becomes more visible on the world stage, Brazilians and the world are more likely to learn about the depth of the corruption pit hole both at the local and national levels. A few years ago, authorities in Brazil began investigating a new financial scandal involving electoral courts in the State of Sao Paulo. Police kickstarted what they call Operation Pretorium,a sting led by the Federal Police since since 2004.
The goal of the operation was to investigate allegations of fraud at six regional electoral courts, which in Brazil are named Regional Electoral Tribunals (TRE). One of the most serious cases is that of Roraima, one of the 27 federal states of the country. After 8 years of investigations police have apprehended at least six people in connection with the mis appropriation of 3,000 million reais (nearly 1,500 million euros) in a corruption scandal that spreads to five states, including Amazonia and Rondonia.
In a separate corruption case, the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil – the highest court in the country – condemned 25 people including politicians, businessmen and bankers for their participation in the widely publicized scandal known as the Mensalao, a political scheme conducted by the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) or Worker’s Party, which included bribing other political groups to obtain votes that helped advance the party’s agenda in order to make government programs and policies seem successful.
During the investigations conducted under Operation Pretorium, the Federal Police discovered a group within the criminal justice system in six states, which inappropriately made use of public money to pay for work and services that only existed in their imagination. The investigation began once Brazil’s Attorney General issued request to the Federal Police to look into what seemed to be a scheme to steal public money. The web of corruption included, according to police, several types of illegalities, including overpayments of allowances and administrative omission adopted to ensure that compensation for services was issued even when those services hadn’t been performed.
Although the investigation is still ongoing, it is already possible to determine the scope of the corruption in this new scandal. For example, police have detected ghost tours supposedly taken by judges, which were used to receive compensation and government workers simulating trips away their offices while still being in their cities. In one case, public officials benefited by being reimbursed for airfares paid by the Regional Electoral Tribunal of Roraima on the false claim that they had participated in official events inside and outside the country.
The scandal also includes payments made because of supposedly working overtime as well as for diverting public money for court elections in 2004. The list of fraudulent behavior continues with public workers being obligated to use their own money to pay part of their salaries to relatives of some judges who worked at the TREs or otherwise face the possibility of being fired without just cause.
Although police estimates that the total of money diverted reached about 1,500 million euros, police officers involved in the investigation say that the past 8 years have barely begun to scratch the surface of a scandal that could make the Mensalao fraud scheme look like an innocent mistake. José Francisco Mallman, a police investigator says that this is only the first phase of the investigation and that more revelations are likely to surface.
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