La Piovra – the tentacles of corruption

la_piovraLa Piovra is an Italian television drama miniseries, first aired in 1984, about the Mafia. With the soundtrack signed by Riz Ortolani and later by Ennio Morricone, it was a big success in many countries, including Sweden.

Piovra is Italian for octopus, or squid: here, a reference to the far-reaching tentacles of organized crime. In Portuguese, octopus is polvo, while squid is lula. Like in former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Before we continue, I strongly urge you to refresh your mind reading a post named “Connect the dots”, published here at Anything Palmeiras in 2010. Fundamentally important background information, that is.

Ready?

The “Operation Car Wash” (Operação Lava Jato in Portuguese) is an investigation being carried out by the Federal Police of Brazil since March 2014. Initially a money laundering investigation, it has expanded to cover allegations of corruption at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras, where it is alleged that executives accepted bribes in return for awarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices. The operation has included the enforcement of more than a hundred warrants for search and seizure, temporary and preventive detention and coercive measures, with the aim of ascertaining a money-laundering scheme suspected of moving more than 10 Billion Brazilian Reais (approx. USD 2.5 Billion in today’s exchange rate). Several ramifications have been discovered and investigations progress fast as more and more of arrested top executives reach plea bargain deals, allowing police to move in on major players that, until now, have enjoyed not pro forma but de facto criminal immunity: politicians.

This morning, former Brazilian President Lula’ house was raided by federal police agents. Lula himself was brought in for questioning, as was a few of his family members. Police say they have strong indications Lula has been involved in the scheme of overcharging contracts with Petrobras, using the money to pay for bribes and electoral campaigns. In addition, Police say Lula received additional and personal benefits from the kickback scheme, amounting to several million Brazilian Reais, channelled through his non-profit organization “Instituto Lula”, companies under his domain, and companies owned by his sons and other close allies.

A high-level political profile like Lula being taken in for questioning is of course huge, especially in Brazil. Still, it does not come as a surprise: federal police and judges involved in the case are doing tremendous good work, methodically closing the net. Considering the magnitude of the corruption scandal – with proven direct involvement of key persons within the Government, the Worker’s Party (PT) and other parties in the Congress – the “I knew nothing” approach deployed by both Lula and current President Dilma Rousseff has long lost credibility.

Back to the ramifications, the construction companies, and the 2010 “Connect the dots” article. No, you do not get a prize for realizing that Odebrecht, the company awarded the construction of Corinthians’ “Itaqueirão” stadium, is one of the deepest involved in the corruption scandal (CEO Marcelo Odebrecht has been under arrest since June 2015). For example, Police says Odebrecht has transferred large amounts to Lula’s son Luis Cláudio da Silva’s enterprises, making Luis Cláudio yet another focal point of investigation. “Lulinha” (little Lula), who at one point was actually working [sic] at Corinthians as a “marketing strategist”…

Anyone is of course innocent until proven guilt. Stay tuned.

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