Young boys from Pará on the Portuguesa pitch in 2006. /Photo Courtesy of Pública by Emerson Ortunho.
By Amanda Kamanchek Lemos and Luana Lila
“To play well you’ve got to eat properly.” This was Francisca do Nascimento’s reaction on the phone in Marabá when she heard her son, then aged 15, say that there wasn’t enough food in the “hostel” set up by soccer “scout” Ronildo Borges de Souza.
Francisca’s son was among 12 youngsters who came from the northern Amazon state of Pará to Santos in the south of Brazil. The boys traveled far, on the slender reed of a big dream: the promise of getting to play in the under-15 and under-17 championships for Portuguesa Santista, a century-old soccer team from the São Paulo coast, currently in the second division of the São Paulo league.
The twelve boys, all from poor families, were recruited by Ronildo, also from Pará, whom the parents had entrusted to negotiate any sorts of contracts on behalf of the boys. His qualification for the task: a “trainer” diploma from the Union of Professional Football Trainers of the State of São Paulo, obtained after a 36-hour theory course.
Heavy machinery at one of First Quantum’s copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose expropriation by the Congolese government is coming under scrutiny. / REUTERS
Imagine that a gigantic corporation privately informs the government that it won an important deal overseas that might have involved the bribery of foreign officials. Journalists discover a confidential document written by the company itself that highlights its concerns. But they can’t write about the story because the corporation hires a white shoe law firm that threatens legal action against media outlets that make inquiries about the document.
That’s the scenario playing out now around a company called Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, or ENRC, of Kazakhstan, whose founding shareholders are three oligarchs close to that country’s despotic leader. With the help of right-wing Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, it won control of a vast mining concession in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the world’s most corrupt, resource-cursed failed states. Gertler is known for his friendly ties to the Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila. [Full Article]
A worker picks tea at a plantation in Githunguri, 30 km (18 miles) from Kenya’s capital Nairobi, January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
A group of nonprofit organizations has released the first-ever database of foreign investments in land deals throughout the developing world, as critics of the trade called for lifting a veil of secrecy over the way governments award rights over vast swaths of land to foreign investors.
In recent years, a virtual buying frenzy has reshaped the agricultural sector of many developing nations. Driven by the prospect of food shortages, the demand for biofuels and the market in carbon credits, foreign investors in agriculture have bought up some 200 million acres of land in developing countries, an area roughly the size of northern Europe, in recent years.
The buyers include governments like Saudi Arabia, which has bought rights to farm 761,000 acres in the Gambella region of Ethiopia, to companies planting crops for conversion to biofuels, to hedge funds that are betting demand for food and land will increase as populations grow. [Full Article]
September 2011: Munduruku, dressed in warpaint, hear from Celestial Green Ventures. / PUBLICA
The promotional video of the company Celestial Green Ventures features pictures of a meeting held at an unidentified location in the Amazon. In front of the photos and with background music, the company’s CEO, the Irishman Ciaran Kelly, explains: “We sat down with the local community, we had a very open discussion, we said what we planned to do, what were their responsibilities and what were ours. We said, ‘If you agree, we go ahead.’”
Prison is the last place Albert J. Stanley seemed destined for. But on Feb. 23, Mr. Stanley, a legendary figure in the high-octane world of Big Oil, was sentenced to two and a half years for his role in one of the biggest bribery cases in American history.
It was a stunning downfall for a man who had spent his career clinching deals in far-flung corners of the world. But it turns out that Mr. Stanley, known as Jack, also played dirty: he pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe officials in Nigeria in return for $6 billion in business contracts.
“I am truly sorry,” Mr. Stanley, the former chief executive of the engineering giant KBR, told a court in Houston last month. “I lost touch.”
The particulars of his case aside — Mr. Stanley said alcoholism played a role — perhaps the most surprising aspect of this story is that it might have unfolded at any number of big corporations. Graft is alarmingly commonplace in global business today, so much so that the Justice Department is waging an aggressive — and controversial — campaign against it. [Full Article]