An important event took place in Brazil this past Wednesday, July 9. The CCJ, the Brazilian Senate Constitution and Justice Commission, finally approved the law prohibiting politicians whose names are on the corruption dirty list – a roster prepared by Transparência Brasil, a non-governmental agency – from running for elective office.
News bulletins released on Wednesday confirmed the decision. Hours after the approval, however, senators decided that the measure wouldn't be voted by the full senate before the Congress recess, which starts July 18 and only ends next month. The reason is that many senators were still undecided on how to vote.
The matter will now be re-discussed in August. For José Agripino Neto, leader of the DEM (Democratic Party), senators are not able to make such important ruling in a rush: "This is a polemic topic, this debate will never end", affirmed Agripino Neto.
Even more polemic issues have shaken up the news, as daily TV News Jornal Nacional stunned Brazil's audience disclosing how much a Brazilian politician earns. According to the prime-time news show, a research published July 8 by Transparência Brasil, each Brazilian representative represents an expense of approximately US$ 7,215 per minute to Brazilian taxpayers.
The study also revealed that each senator costs US$ 20.625 million yearly, while a state-level representative makes US$ 6.865 million a year. The research goes further by pointing out how much an alderman in a city like Rio de Janeiro makes: US$ 3,125 million per year.
According to Transparência Brasil, each one of the 514 Brazilian congressman costs an average of US$ 6.25 million per year, surpassing developed countries such as France (US$ 1.74 million), and Italy (US$ 2.42 million). When compared to Brazil's neighbor Argentina, for example, Brazilian legislators make almost 8 times as much. Argentineans pay US$ 808,000 a year to their congressmen.
Controversy does not stop, and a new emerging saga is now occupying Brazilian TV screens. This time it involves former mayor of São Paulo – Celso Pitta, once secretary of finance during the administration of ex -governor of São Paulo, Paulo Maluf, now a federal representative; a mega investor Naji Nahas, one of the richest man in Brazil and Daniel Dantas, a bank owner.
They are being accused of tax evasion, corruption, money laundry, illegal transfer of funds and federal espionage. The suspects were taken into custody to Federal Police Headquarters, and two of them, Dantas and Nahas were released soon after. Dantas was re-arrested again following additional proof presented by Federal Police.
According to Federal agents, the suspects have been under investigation for the last 4 years, and together they are responsible for transferring US$ 2 billion out of the country illegally to Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, a so called "Paraíso Fiscal" ( Fiscal Paradise), between 1992 and 2004.
Former mayor of São Paulo, Celso Pitta already accused of fraud in the past is still under custody. Investor Naji Nahas declared innocent following accusations of inside trading which caused Rio de Janeiro stock market crash in the late 1980's has already been released. Daniel Dantas, Bank Opportunity owner, had also been accused of corruption in the past during the case mensalão (big monthly allowance), a bribe scandal which involved members of Congress.
Protógenes Queiroz , Federal Police chief officer, informed the press that it will be hard to find out part of funds transferred overseas, which is actually public money from the city of São Paulo, duringÂ Pitta's administration:
"Celso Pitta does not seem to have any occupation that would allow him to receive such high amounts of money," stated Queiroz. Bank Opportunity owner, Daniel Dantas is also being accused of setting up fake companies to be used in money laundry schemes.
Federal Investigators have also disclosed that Dantas and mega-investor Nahas had been maintaining important contacts with important financial institutions, namely Federal Reserve and US Central Bank. "They had mega-contacts within the Federal Reserve and US Central Bank, which would allow them to benefit from privileged information", informed Attorney-General Rodrigo de Grandis.
Police officials declared that Dantas offered a US$ 1 million dollar bribe in order to escape prison and interrupt the investigation procedures. Members of the family of the suspects were also arrested: Verônica Dantas (Daniel Dantas's sister) Fernando Nahas (Naji Nahas' son) and Bank Opportunity shareholder and Vice-President, Carlos Rodemburg. They have also been released.
The operation involved 300 federal police agents, working in four different cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Brasilia. The crackdown on corruption schemes will continue, as the federal police investigation promises not to stop.
Edison Bernardo DeSouza is a journalist, having graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo, Brazil. He lived in the US and Canada for close to 10 years and participated in volunteering activities in social works agencies. DeSouza currently lives in São Paulo where he teaches English as a Second Language, and is pursuing further advancements in his career. He is particularly interested in economics and human rights articles.