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By Sam Cowie, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – 2011 saw Brazil take the fight against corruption to a new level – with huge increases in the recovery of stolen funds and seven high-ranking members of President Dilma Rousseff’s administration dismissed following allegations of corruption, since she took office in January 2011, Brazilian Labor Minister Carlos Lupi being the latest.

Seven high-ranking members of President Rousseff’s administration dismissed following allegations of corruption, Brazil News
Seven high-ranking members of President Rousseff’s administration have been dismissed following allegations of corruption, photo by Antonio Cruz/ABr.

In August President Rousseff said: “It is my duty as President of all Brazilians to see an end to the impunity which shelters many of those accused of involvement in corruption practices,” and added: “We will punish all abuses and excesses.”

Brazil’s Attorney General’s office says it has filed 2,343 civil suits in an attempt to recover R$1.2 billion in public funds from politicians, public servants and private companies. The agency said in a press release Friday that 664 suits involve current and former mayors and 429 are against current and former public servants.

2011 has seen a 150 percent increase since 2007 in the amount of stolen funds recovered. Yet this ‘record’ high retains only 15 percent of revenues stolen.

Brazil hopes to retrieve 25 percent of diverted funds by 2016. However, officials maintain it takes about seven years to recover funds. Corruption and a culture of impunity, amongst high ranking officials especially, remain endemic according to critics.

Brazil’s corruption perception indicator by Transparency International places the Latin American giant at 73, third place in the South America, behind Chile and Uruguay. The number of trials against corrupt officials reaching a final verdict within a year remains extremely low, especially in cases of fraud is against the state.

Jorge Hage, Minister of the Office of the Comptroller General, Brazil News
Jorge Hage, Minister of the Office of the Comptroller General, photo by José Cruz/ABr.

Last year the Brazilian courts produced only 416 final judgments in corruption crimes and 547 cases of money laundering – about ten percent of the average that is in the U.S. court system each year.

Corruption charges account for 56 percent of reasons why ministers step down from office. From January to November were driven 311 servers – one a day – mostly in the Ministries of Welfare, Education, Justice, Treasury and Health.

Together, the courts of the richest states (São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro) have only 801 cases of corruption in progress. Manoel Rebelo, President of the Court of Justice, explains: “The truth is that we have an endless amount of legal procedural options.”

Politicians and senior bureaucrats continue to form an absolute minority of those facing prosecution – which some accuse is a reflection of the predominant influence of the state elites.

Jorge Hage, Minister of the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU) notes: “It is almost impossible today to see a legal process come to an end in Brazil. A good lawyer can delay a sentence for ten or twenty years. And it is precisely the white-collar criminals – not the common criminals – who can afford the best lawyers.”

A frustrating case-in-point is last Monday, courts placed an order to sue Carlos Alberto Barros da Silva, a former mayor, for the R$4.3 million he had taken out of student lunch fund in 1998. I was enough money to feed 16,000 students for two years according to reports.

Prosecutors suggest the chances of justice are slim, at age 67, the former mayor is in no danger of arrest. The fear is he will age comfortably while battling courts, using the arsenal of legal procedures available for a long, drawn out defense.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I think it is high time that Brazil started cracking down on the sleaze factor in Government. The case in point of the mayor stealing R$4.3m from a student lunch fund is nothing short of disgusting. The problem though is that Rousseff is going to find it very difficult to police the top dogs, when, let’s be perfectly honest, everyone is involved. Brazil has always reminded me of Rome at the height of its achievement and decadence. I salute Rousseff in cracking the whip. Hopefully her hands are clean, else she will sadly fall too.

  2. So the message sent to politicians is if you’re gonna steal, steal big. That way if you get caught you will have enough money to defend and delay the courts for 10-20 years *with* the money you stole *and* will then be old enough that even if you’re convicted, they won’t put you in jail. With this system, if you’re a politician of near 55 years of age or older why wouldn’t you steal?

  3. The question is… is Pres. Rousseff really against corruption or just wants to appear to be so? If she was serious, she would create a new legal branch (or court system) mandated to process all corruption cases in an expedient manner. Having them handled by the normal (slow) courts is ineffective. And they need to go to prison if found guilty regardless of their age. Otherwise, where’s the deterrent? and where’s the justice?

  4. @ Brad.

    Ido partly agree with you but as a Brazilian I’m very happy with the fact now they are doing something about it. Before you jonly new of it nobody said or did anything. So thumbs up it is a great start and a long road to go. Merry Christmas.

  5. Another example of the disincentive to be honest is in the judicial system. If a judge or desembargador is caught acting corruptly he has to face the ultimate sanction: immediate retirement on full salary for the rest of his life.

    Start locking these jokers up for ten years alongside the prisoners they have sentenced and there will be a miraculous improvement in the judiciary.

    ZB

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