Confronting Corruption in Brazil

Cutouts of politicians dressed as prisoners are pictured in a cage as a part of a protest against corruption in front of the Supreme Court during the “mensalao” trial in Brasilia August 3, 2012. /REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

The legacy of former Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is on trial at home, as dozens of former government officials face charges of vote-buying in the country’s highest court.

Thirty-eight officials, including senior members of Lula’s Workers Party, are facing more than 1,000 allegations of embezzlement, money laundering, misuse of public funds, corruption and conspiracy, the Associated Press reports.

The largest graft case in the country’s history has been brewing since Lula’s first term in 2005, when allegations surfaced that members of his center-left party had parliamentary members for votes.
Lula is not facing charges, but the case could stain the reputation of his presidency, which is known for popular achievements in social welfare and poverty relief.

Prosecutors allege that from 2003 to 2005, officials in his administration took bribes for votes were taken from advertising budgets of state-owned companies and laundered through a private firm.

Lula has issued public apologies on behalf of his party but maintains that he was betrayed. Party officials have denied the vote-buying charges.

The trial is expected to last about a month.

Sweep to Corruption trial hailed as good sign for Brazil

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to dismiss his top army and police ministers after the country’s parliament voted to remove them. Legislators announced that sacking Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi was part of a hardline sweep against corruption and nepotism in the government.

Karzai accepted the vote, but said the two would retain their posts until he could name replacements.

Lawmakers said the two ministers had failed to protect the country’s borders from recent rocket attacks from Pakistan, and to prevent the recent assassinations of top officials.

The sacking of the nation’s two highest security ministers comes at a tricky time, as U.S.-led military forces pare down operations and prepare to leave by the end of 2014.

The political rift could undermine cohesion in the country’s anti-graft efforts. Karzai is under pressure to demonstrate progress in order to secure $16 billion in international aid, according to the Reuters News Agency.

On the same day as the vote against ministers in Parliament, the country’s anti-corruption head announced the start of an investigation into allegations that Karzai’s finance minister has squirreled $1 million in overseas bank accounts.

Sweep to MPs Vote to Afghanistan’s Karzai Accepts Dismissal of Top Security Ministers

European Union prosecutors have made some strides against corruption in Kosovo over the last month as eight judges in Kosovo face embezzlement charges and one former anti-corruption chief was charged with extortion and illegal possession of weapons.

The European Union Rule of Law Mission, or EULEX, is the EU’s largest civilian mission and serves as a test case to demonstrate the body’s ability to implement a cohesive foreign policy.

Special prosecutors with EULEX allege that the eight municipal and district court judges, as well as two lawyers, profited from court rulings involving dozens of acres of land. The defendants were sitting judges on the cases, according to Balkan Insight, a publication of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

Kosovo state television indicated the judges bilked EUR60 million from the state, the European Voice website reported.

The 15 civil cases related to ownership claims on the land, EULEX prosecutors said.

Separately, EULEX prosecutors indicted Kosovo’s anti-corruption task force chief Nazmi Mustafi for extorting money from people under investigation for graft. He served as head of the country’s task force from 2010 until his arrest in April.

In early July, EULEX also indicted Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi and ten other officials for corruption. Bukoshi was accused of abusing his authority, tax evasion, and obstructing evidence while serving as health minister in 2010. He denied the charges but resigned.

The latest wave of prosecutions could boost confidence in EULEX’s ability to enforce the rule of law.

EULEX costs an estimated EUR100 million a year and last year came under fire for achieving too little since the mission was launched under the umbrella of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, or UNMIK, in 2008.

Sweep to EULEX Charges Eight Kosovo Judges with Corruption

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.