New corruption scandal rocks Brazilian government

BRASILIA Sat Nov 24, 2012 2:57pm EST

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff participates in the ceremony of investiture for the new President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court, ministers Joaquim Barbosa and Ricardo Lewandowski, in Brasilia November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff participates in the ceremony of investiture for the new President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court, ministers Joaquim Barbosa and Ricardo Lewandowski, in Brasilia November 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, moving quickly to nip a new scandal in the bud, ordered the dismissal on Saturday of government officials allegedly involved in a bribery ring, including the country's deputy attorney general.

Federal police raided government offices in Brasilia and Sao Paulo on Friday and arrested six people for running an influence peddling ring that sold government approvals to businessmen in return for bribes.

Among those under investigation are the former personal secretary of ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Rosemary de Noronha, who has headed the regional office of the presidency in Sao Paulo since 2005.

The bribery scandal erupted on the heels of Brazil's biggest political corruption trial that sentenced some of Lula's closest aides to prison terms for buying support in Congress for his minority Workers' Party government after taking office in 2003.

Rousseff, Lula's chosen successor, was not affected by the vote-buying scandal and she has built on his popularity by gaining a reputation for not tolerating corruption. But the ruling Workers' Party was rocked by the scandal which tarnished Lula's legacy even though he was not implicated.

The new corruption case could further hurt the standing of Lula, who remains Brazil's most influential politician.

Friday's arrests included two brothers who were recommended for positions in the federal government by Lula's former secretary, Noronha: Paulo Rodrigues Vieira, director of the National Water Agency and Rubens Carlos Vieira, director for airport infrastructure at Brazil's Civil Aviation Agency.

Police accused the brothers of recruiting second-tier government employees who would be open to bribery, while a third brother also under arrest, Marcelo Rodrigues Vieira, contacted businessmen willing to pay for false or speeded-up approvals.

Police have been investigating the bribery ring since 2010 when an official in the government accounting office who was offered $150,000 for a favorable report got cold feet, returned the money he had been paid and blew the whistle.

Early on Friday, police seized computers and data from the Brasilia office of Deputy Attorney General Jose Weber de Holanda Alves, who has been dismissed and is under investigation along with a dozen other people, including a former senator.

"By presidential decision, all the government employees under investigation by the Federal Police will be dismissed or fired from their positions," a statement form Rousseff's office said. She ordered all agencies mentioned in the police probe to open internal investigations.

Police are investigating possible bribery cases at several other federal agencies, including the Ministry of Education.

While Noronha served as chief of staff of the president's regional office in Sao Paulo, Rousseff had inherited her as a Lula appointee.

Veja news magazine reported that Noronha, who was very close to Lula and traveled with him abroad when he was president, received bribes for influence peddling that included a luxury cruise trip and plastic surgery.

(Additional reporting by Ana Flor and Jefferson Ribeiro; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Comments (11)
Fbear0143 wrote:
Rousseff is a strong personality, fair and anti-corruption. She will do all she can to prevent corruption, as she is able to discover it. However, one wonders if the conservative press in Brazil, owned and controlled by a determined elite intent on discrediting the strides made by the Lula and Rousseff governments in order to slow the growing middle class. They are going to have to learn that as the middle class grows, it will become more wise to the ways of the rich in Brazil. They will also become convinced that corruption on the left, while attacked by the press, would be ignored if it became corruption on the right. After all, the press would benefit from a corrupt right-wing regime. So they see nothing to lose by attacking the fair chances the workers and their allies. They will live to regret their actions, if they aren’t careful. Ordinary people are becoming more and more aware of how a rich group anywhere in the world is never the friend of theirs.

Nov 24, 2012 5:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
stonehillady wrote:
Viva la Casa de Araujo

Nov 24, 2012 6:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
TheHen wrote:
“Strong personality?” You could say that. 30 years ago she was a member of a Communist-inspired terror group that financed their Left wing agenda by abductions and ransoming. When Lula took over he followed an excellent Reagen-esque president who finally set the country’s economy on a sound track.

When Lula was campaigning he was hitting the corrupt record of the Brasilian-Reagan. When he won (thanks to the uninformed masses, and how they reacted to his proud claim he’d never even finished the equivalent of high-school – and was functionally illiterate, if not charismatic), he restored the former Leftist terrorists in the country to something approaching acceptability. Ms. Rousseff was one of these who was brought back from the sleazy shadows.

Please, don’t get the impression she has changed her inner personality. Maybe her external spots, but not thee real her.

Nov 24, 2012 6:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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