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Kenneth Maxwell: The Reckoning

12/12/2013 - 14h50


Corruption is a corrosive fact of life: Most especially old fashioned corruption. But one thing that is very clear about Brazil is that corruption is thoroughly bipartisan and that it extends much wider than the political class. The corrupt after all need those who want something in return, and are prepared to pay for it.

Those who gain from these networks of clandestine kick backs, special deals, and political favours, are not the vast majority of the Brazilian population. They suffer from the shoddy buildings, overpriced transportation, and underperforming public services that result. And many Brazilians, especially the young, are fed up with the whole process.

The global corruption perceptions index for 2013, published last week by Transparency International, compares abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery in the public sector across 177 countries with 0 = highly corrupt and 100 = very clean. On this scale Brazil is placed in 72 position together with South Africa.

The other BRICS fair worse than Brazil. China stands at 80, India at 94, and Russia at 127. The least corrupt are Denmark and New Zealand. At the bottom, jointly placed on the scale at 175, are Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia. Brazil has at least moved up one point since 2012 survey.

Joe Leahy in "The Financial Times" reported from Sao Paulo this week on the New York Hedge fund Platinum Partners which is investing in attempts to recover billions of dollars lost to fraud in Brazil.

Last year, in what may be Brazil's first successful cross border recovery of funds, a court in New Jersey, ordered the return of U$10.5 million in accounts linked to Paulo Maluf.

To penetrate the multiple structures of shell companies can be expensive in legal fees. But Martin Kenney, a Canadian lawyer, told Leahy, that his firm was close to recovering R$900m in a Brazilian case.

It will be ironic if in the end it is the law, especially with its international reach, that brings the corrupt to account, something Brazilian politicians, from all political parties, have singularly failed to achieve.

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