Code names of crooked politicians

  • Video
  • Image

Watch as a thief in Sao Paolo, Brazil steals a motorbike at gunpoint.

A woman watches a pronouncement by Brazil’s President Michel Temer about his possible involvement with the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Picture: Eraldo Peres/AP

THE politicians caught up in Brazil’s biggest ever corruption scandal are well known to the public. But their alter egos, like “Viagra” and “BMW,” less so.

Odebrecht, the massive engineering company that admits to systematic bribery of politicians, has revealed that code names were given to its long list of alleged bribe-takers.

The graft was so widespread that Odebrecht set up a whole department to handle payments. However, given the illegal nature of the business, they referred to politicians with an imaginative series of handles, published in full on Monday by the news site G1.

Some congressmen were given wholesome sounding labels, like “Cowboy” and “Fisherman.” Others got more fanciful treatment: “Princess” for a deputy state governor called Cida Borghetti or “Muse” for the state politician Ana Paula Lima.

“BMW” was the name given to congressman Beto Mansur, while “Viagra” was another deputy, Jarbas Vasconcelos.

Some nicknames invented by Odebrecht indicated little love lost, apart from the love of illicit money making, of course.

Senator Jader Barbalho became “Crocodile,” congressman Paes Landim was “Decrepit,” Senator Humberto Costa was “Dracula” and another senator, Edison Lobao, was memorialised as “Squalid.” As for Rio de Janeiro’s ex-mayor, who is accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes during preparations for last year’s Olympics, he was filed under “The Little Nervous One.”

To organise its files on the political parties taking bribes, Odebrecht swapped party names for famous football clubs. The leftist Workers’ Party became “Flamengo” and today’s main ruling centre-right coalition partners PMDB and PSDB became “Internacional” and “Corinthians”.

Brazil’s President Michel Temer, left, sits next to his Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha, during a press conference at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia. Picture: Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazil’s President Michel Temer, left, sits next to his Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha, during a press conference at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia. Picture: Eraldo Peres/APSource:AP

Brazil’s corruption megascandal includes a string of accusations involving the construction of the stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Picture: Vanderlei Almeida/AFP

Brazil’s corruption megascandal includes a string of accusations involving the construction of the stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Picture: Vanderlei Almeida/AFPSource:AFP

The Rocinha favela community in Rio de Janeiro. Activists say corruption in Brazil has fuelled inequality within the country. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Rocinha favela community in Rio de Janeiro. Activists say corruption in Brazil has fuelled inequality within the country. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

People gather in a bar in the Vidigal favela community in Rio de Janeiro. The Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal is the biggest in the country’s history. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images

People gather in a bar in the Vidigal favela community in Rio de Janeiro. The Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scandal is the biggest in the country’s history. Picture: Mario Tama/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

CONSTRUCTION FIRM FINED $3.4 BILLION

The revelations come as Odebrecht was ordered to pay $3.43 billion ($US2.6 billion) in fines to settle charges it bribed officials in a dozen countries.

The payout order, by US District Judge Raymond Dearie in Brooklyn, came after US and Brazilian authorities determined after a plea agreement was reached in December that Odebrecht could not afford to pay more than that amount. The company had agreed to pay up to $4.61 billion ($US3.5 billion) in penalties.

In a federal court proceeding lasting only a few minutes, the judge imposed the terms of the December deal between the company and prosecutors, including the appointment of an independent compliance monitor for three years. The monitor has already begun work.

The judge said Odebrecht will pay nearly $3.16 billion ($US2.4 billion) to Brazil, $153 million ($US116 million) to Switzerland and $123 million ($US93 million) to the United States.

Prosecutors said in court papers that Odebrecht had inadequate anti-corruption controls and little or no anti-corruption compliance program from 2001 to 2016, when it paid about $1.04 billion ($US788 million) in bribes to secure contracts for more than 100 projects in a dozen countries. Those countries were identified as Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Prosecutors said the bribes secured $4.35 billion ($US3.3 billion) in ill-gotten benefits for Odebrecht and its co-conspirators. They said that after Odebrecht became aware of an investigation by Brazilian law enforcement authorities into corrupt payments and related probes in the US and Switzerland, the company’s employees and executives tried to conceal and destroy evidence of crimes.

The legal case was brought in the United States after it was determined that some offshore entities used to hold and disburse funds were owned or operated by people in the US and some meetings related to the bribery scheme occurred in Miami, authorities said.

In recommending a sentence that would allow Odebrecht to remain solvent, prosecutors noted the company has fired 51 people and disciplined another 26, including demoting them and requiring them to submit to anti-corruption compliance and business ethics training.

In December, Odebrecht apologised for its involvement in corruption scandals that led to the arrest of its former chief executives and several of its officials.

In a statement last week reiterating its commitment to co-operate with authorities, the company said the deal to settle the case “imposes rigorous fines and sanctions so the company can stay in business.” It also said it has adopted a new governance structure and put in place strict rules to combat corruption and ensure its actions are ethical and transparent.

Meanwhile, dozens of current and former executives at Odebrecht have signed plea bargain agreements with Brazilian authorities and given extensive testimony about bribes paid in exchange for desirable legislation, state contracts and other favours. That testimony, made public last week, is unsettling Brazilian politics and has led Brazilian authorities to open corruption investigations into about 100 politicians.

About author