No Impunity: Brazil’s court delivers a strong message

No Impunity: Brazil’s court delivers a strong message

On November 13 the Supreme Court in Brazil sentenced one of the leading politicians in the country, José Dirceu former chief of staff to President Lula, to 10 years and 10 months in prison for corruption in a vote buying scandal that was uncovered in 2005. This significant sentence underscored the judiciary’s intent to send a strong message that there will be no impunity for politicians in Brazil. This was part of a highly-publicised trial of 40 politicians and business people that has riveted Brazilians for months. Recent polls in Brazil had shown that most people believed the politicians would get off. 

At Transparency International we believe that it is imperative that there should be no impunity for those with power and influence who use their positions for personal gain. People must believe that their institutions are fair and that everyone is equal before the law. Why would ordinary people resist corruption if those at the top do not and get away with it? 

Too often in Brazil, politicians and those with influence have avoided justice. This has been reflected in the research we do.

Forty people from business and politics are being tried for their involvement in the so-called Mensalão scandal which broke in 2005. The charges, which include corruption, money laundering and illicit payments, relate to a scheme to provide monthly payments – or mensalão -- to politicians to buy the votes necessary to keep then President Lula’s Socialist Party government in power. The most high-level person to be convicted is José Dirceu, former chief of staff to President Lula at the time, who was named as the mastermind of the scheme.

So far 25 have been convicted and four acquitted with a handful more still waiting judgements. Those convicted are likely to be sentenced within the next month. For the first time, powerful politicians may go to prison.

Winds of change

Brazil is putting fighting corruption high on the agenda. In the past year President Dilma Rouseff showed little hesitation when she forced a succession of ministers out of their jobs when they were named in corruption scandals and new citizen initiatives are giving more power to the people to hold their leaders to account. In a recent interview, following the sentencing of Dirceu, the president said: “I accept the decision and do not challenge it.”

Brazil’s constitution states that citizens are allowed to propose legislation to the National Congress. More than 1 million Brazilians did just that by proposing a law that in 2010 was passed as the Clean Records Law (Lei da Ficha Limpa) aimed at preventing corruption in both national and regional legislatures. This law asserts that persons criminally convicted by a judicial or administrative court are ineligible to run for political office for eight consecutive years at any level. In the recent local elections more than 1,000 candidates were barred because of this.

The government also passed a right to information law in 2012 that guarantees Brazilian citizens access to federal, state, provincial, and municipal public documents. Proper implementation of the law is now needed to ensure greater transparency and accountability. Brazil has also joined with the United States as co-founder of the Open Government Partnership, which calls for governments to improve transparency and prevent corruption. The partnership’s Action Plan was published in 2011.

This is a start but no one is under the illusion that the problem of corruption has been solved.

As Leo Torresan, head of Amaribbo, our partner organisation in Brazil described the direction Brazil is taking:  “The Mensalão trial is a true watershed between past and future, and certainly a violent blow against corruption and to the corrupt accustomed to impunity especially when it comes to the use of public money. Brazilians will begin to understand what is happening. But more still needs to be done.”

The 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference

From 7-10 November this year, leading experts from the anti-corruption community gathered in Brazil’s capital Brasilia for the 15th International Anti-Corruption Convention to take stock of the global fight against corruption. With the theme Mobilising People: Connecting Agents of Change, it showcased best practice and key challenges in the prevention of corruption, lessons Brazil can learn from and implement. Read more on the outcomes of the conference and the Brasilia Declaration.

Image: Flickr/ Creative Commons: movimentobrasilcontracorrupcao

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Antoine Deltour: LuxLeaks whistleblower’s long legal battle continues

On Thursday 23 November, the High Court of Luxembourg will announce its verdict in the case of Antoine Deltour, the whistleblower who revealed aggressive tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg by sharing the 'LuxLeaks' documents with journalists in 2014.

Open letter to the President of Equatorial Guinea: Ramon Esono Ebalé must be released

It has been two months since the artist and satirist Ramon Esono Ebalé was detained without charge in Equatorial Guinea. Transparency International joined with 17 organisations and individuals to write to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. We are calling for his immediate release.

Global Corruption Barometer: citizens’ voices from around the world

Transparency International believes that people’s experience and perceptions of corruption are key for understanding corruption risks around the world. Our Global Corruption Barometer is the world's largest survey asking citizens about their direct personal experience of corruption in their daily lives - check it out here!

How the Honduran military and police profit from the illegal arms trade

An investigation by InSight Crime and Transparency International Honduras has found that many of the guns used in homicides in Honduras come from Honduran military and police stockpiles.

#ParadisePapers: time to clean up the offshore financial havens

The ‘Paradise Papers’ show how the rich and powerful around the world are able to avoid paying tax and keep their business dealings secret. The mechanisms they use can also benefit the corrupt, and must be made more transparent.

Uzbekistan: How to support the real victims of grand corruption

What do you do when assets stolen from a country’s state coffers by corrupt individuals have been recovered and can now be returned to the country - but the government is still controlled by corrupt people? That’s the case of Uzbekistan, one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Entrevista con testigo clave en el Caso Obiang: Delfin Mocache Massoko

En el 27 de octubre 2017, la justicia francesa ha condenado a Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vicepresidente de Guinea Ecuatorial, a tres años de cárcel extentos de cumplimiento, una multa de 30 millones de euros (US$35 millones) y confiscó todos sus activos en Francia. Antes de que se anunciara el veredicto, entrevistamos a Delfin Mocache Massoko, un testigo clave en el caso, para descubrir qué significa el juicio para él y los ciudadanos de Guinea Ecuatorial.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world