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Date: 2024-05-18 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00023077
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL
BRAZIL

Bolsonaro’s got (no) bucks to give 🇧🇷💰 ... Transparency International ... 02/09/2022


Jair Bolsonaro during a meeting in August 2018. Image: Antonio Scorza / Shutterstock

Original article: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=Xm#inbox/FMfcgzGqQJqHFdjQnRjnjCqHnNjctmpn
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
Bolsonaro’s got (no) bucks to give 🇧🇷💰

From Transparency International


02/09/2022

Hi Peter,

While the corrupt and wealthy in other parts of the world are busy developing complex financial instruments to hide their illicit gains, reporters in Brazil this week revealed: for President Jair Bolsonaro, cash is still king.

According to the seven-month investigation by Brazilian newspaper UOL Notícias, Bolsonaro’s family paid cash for over half of the real estate assets they acquired over the last three decades – which are worth millions of dollars.

Using cash, especially to buy real estate, allows corrupt people to spend their illicit gains without getting caught. Cash purchases are considered high-risk because they integrate a significant amount of money into the economy all at once, while avoiding additional checks by banks and others.

This is far from the first time that Bolsonaro – or his family members – have been accused of corruption or money laundering. But this investigation comes out just before Brazil’s October election – and polls show Bolsonaro is trailing in his bid to win a second term.

If you’re imagining a scene from an old-school crime movie in which illegal transactions mean suitcases full of cash, you’re probably not far off. Bolsonaro’s brother-in-law reportedly paid for a mansion – worth US$525,000 or 2.67 million Brazilian Reais (BRL) – in cash.

It’s not yet clear where exactly this cash came from, but it could potentially be linked to corruption through one of the other dubious, crude money laundering schemes that the Bolsonaro family has been accused of in the past. This includes siphoning off salaries of staff working for them in municipal, state and federal parliaments and the alleged hiring of “ghost employees” to make even more money off public funds through their salaries.

Certainly, the increase in wealth of Bolsonaro’s family members that allowed them to buy such real estate raises serious suspicions. The whole scheme begs several questions – is it foolishness or blatant impunity that would make Bolsonaro’s entire family buy property in their own names using dodgy transactions that can easily be traced? And how did this practice not register on the authorities’ radars for years?

While it’s great that journalists can track such activities using ownership data on the purchase of real estate properties in the state of Rio de Janeiro, financial gatekeepers such as real estate agents also have a role to play by flagging suspicious transactions.

In fact, such schemes that involve moving large amounts of cash are not just easier to track compared to sophisticated and complex instruments like shell companies, but also easier to prevent. Countries just need measures in place to check or prohibit big, suspicious cash transactions.

​​​​In 2017, Transparency International Brazil and several other civil society experts designed one such law as part of a package of recommended anti-money laundering bills submitted to lawmakers in Brazil. The proposed anti-money laundering law would establish rules for the use of cash in transactions of any nature, including a limit of BRL 10,000, or around US$1,900, for commercial or professional transaction activities.

Despite attempts by Flavio Bolsonaro – the president’s son and a member of the Brazilian senate – to stop this law from passing, it has been approved by the Committee on Economic Affairs and is now awaiting authorisation from the Constitution and Justice Committee in the senate. If passed, this law would prevent large cash transactions that allowed such a scheme to exist.


The Federal Senate Plenary Chamber at the Brazilian National Congress. Image: Diego Grandi / Shutterstock

All around the world, we’re constantly fighting to simplify complex financial and corporate structures and to uncover true ownership of assets in order to identify perpetrators of corruption. In this case, there is hard, tangible evidence of shady transactions. Authorities in Brazil must investigate and punish all perpetrators and enablers involved in this scheme.

Before being elected, Bolsonaro made bold promises to act against corruption but instead has tried to undermine law enforcement agencies and financial intelligence units at every step. Under Bolsonaro, the Brazilian financial intelligence unit, the Council of Control of Financial Activities (COAF), suffered several setbacks. The sustainable way to fight corruption is not to rely on leaders who are all talk, but to ensure an independent judiciary and strengthen anti-corruption institutions like the COAF in Brazil so that they are empowered to investigate wrongdoings – no matter who is in power.

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  • CPI 2021 for the Americas: A region in crisis ... With an average score of only 43 out of 100 for the third consecutive year, the countries of the Americas are paralysed in the fight against corruption. Despite extensive anti-corruption laws and commitments, corruption in the region continues to weaken democracy and human rights, while even high performers are showing signs of trouble.
  • Brazil’s Supreme Court halts anti-money laundering investigations (July 2019) ... In July 2019, Brazil’s Supreme Court temporarily suspended all money laundering investigations and curtailed the powers of the country’s financial investigative unit, the Council of Control of Financial Activities. This was following investigations by the COAF into suspicious transactions made by the son of President Jair Bolsonaro, Flávio Bolsonaro.
Transparency International Secretariat ... Alt Moabit 96, 10559 Berlin Germany



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