Lula’s right-hand man gets almost 11 years in prison in Mensalão case

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 13, 2012

The Federal Supreme Court of Brazil (STF) condemned former Lula’s right-hand man to almost 11 years in prison for his participation in the corruption scheme known as the Mensalão. Jose Dirceu, who many label as the strong man in Lula’s administration was convicted of bribery and criminal association to command a network of bribes to legislators. The Mensalão scheme operated from 2003 to 2005. Twenty other people were also found guilty along with Dirceu, who has challenged the outcome of the trial, labeling it of ‘political persecution’.

The other five Supreme Court judges who convicted Dirceu unanimously supported the proposal of the chief judge, Joaquim Barbosa, to impose a sentence of two years and eleven months for criminal association.

The approval of the sentence to seven years and eleven months in prison for the crime of bribery recommended by Barbosa, in turn, was decided by four votes in favor and one against. The opposing vote came from judge Carmen Lucia, who recommended a sentence of three years, nine months and 15 days in jail. Since the sentence adds to more than eight years in total, Jose Dirceu will have to remain in jail for at least two years. In addition, he will have to pay a fine of nearly $ 330,000.

The judge argued  that Dirceu played a “prominent role” in shaping the pattern of paying bribes to legislators in exchange for their support for the proposals submitted to Congress by the government of the Workers Party (PT ). According to Joaquim Barbosa, the position of power that Dirceu had in government “was politically essential to hide the actions of the gang.”

The so-called ‘trial of the century’ also condemned former PT president, Jose Genoíno to six years and eleven months’ imprisonment and eight years and eleven months were given to former party treasurer, Delubio Soares. Jose Dirceu’s attorney, José Luis Oliveira Lima, said the former minister will use “all resources” to overturn his conviction, and even seeks to raise an action to the International Court of Human Rights. In the last few days, the office of the Attorney General called for the confiscation of the passports from the convicted men in an attempt to prevent them from fleeing the country.

“The Supreme (Federal Court) did not analyze the evidence with due correction. The documents generated during the process proved the innocence of my client,” argued Dirceu’s attorney. Also, the lawyer for former PT president José Genoino, said his client “vigorously disagrees” with the judgment of the STF, but that he will respect it and face it “with the chest open and the head up.”

According to the Court, the penalties applied to the men convicted in the Mensalão case were defined throughout the trial that sentenced 25 people in total; including politicians, businessmen and bankers who had ties to the corruption scandal that threatened to bring down Lula’s government back in 2005. Other convicts of lesser political relevance, such as publicist Marcos Valerio de Souza, appointed as the operator of the illegal scheme, received larger convictions.

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Brazil rocked by yet another corruption Scandal

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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Was Brazilian ‘Lula’ Behind the ‘Mensalão’ Corruption Scheme?

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 18, 2012

Brazilian businessman Marcos Valerio de Souza, one of the people being accused of corruption during the trial for the ‘Mensalão’ scheme, has accused the former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of orchestrating a vote-buying plot as part of the scandal that has rocked Brazilian politics in 2011 and 2012. During the depositions and hearings, several members of Lula’s cabinet were cited as involved in the Mensalão scheme together with bankers and businessmen.

“Lula was the head. He ran it all”, said Souza, who has been identified as a “luxury messenger” of the plot laid out by the president, as reported by the Brazilian magazine ‘Veja’. “Everything I did was well known by Lula,” noted the owner of two major advertising companies in Brazil. Souza has argued, according to ‘Veja’, that the Workers Party headed government assured him his sentence would be soft if he kept quite about the Mensalão scandal, in which the defendants received monthly payments in exchange for votes.

Meanwhile, Souza’s lawyer has denied such statements saying that his client has not spoken to the press since 2005. The Brazilian Supreme Court is accusing eight people, including Souza, of money laundering and embezzlement with monies that belonged to the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), which is the political party that launched Lula to the presidency. The Mensalão scandal involving members of the PT was originally made public back in 2005.

Despite the accusations directed at the former president, the Supreme Court refused to investigate Lula’s involvement, much less to charge  him with any wrong doing. Luiz Inacio da Silva ruled over Brazil between 2003 and 2010. The Court did accuse Lula’s right hand man and  chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, who is now one of the eight people accused in the case.

The process has been dubbed as the “trial of the century” in Brazil, a country plagued with corruption from top to bottom and left to right, where politicians and military often get away with their crimes. The Mensalão scandal spreads its tentacles through the politics and business worlds. There are 38 former Lula ministers, legislators, bankers and businessmen involved in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the South American nation.

Thus far, from the 38 defendants — all free — face charges of money laundering, tax evasion, corruption, embezzlement and formation of a criminal organization, among others. The sentences could be of over 30 years in prison. According to ‘Veja’ magazine, the PT had bought political favors to gain support in Congress. The scandal diverted some 101 million reais (40.5 million euros).

The PT had allegedly pledged to pay a large sum of money to legislators of the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) to give their unconditional support to the government. This illegal agreement was announced following the breakdown of the alliance in 2005. Lula, who is not among the accused, has always denied having knowledge that members of his party and people close to the government had been paid to commit such offenses. In spite of the scandal, the leftist leader was reelected in 2006. Its popularity was always at high levels despite the conflict.

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