Inquiry Shows Brasília’s Corruption Saga Might Be Decades Old

    Former Brasília governor Roriz

    Former Brasília governor RorizFederal government attorneys in Brazil intend to expand their investigation into a corruption ring in the government of the Federal District (GDF). According to Roberto Gurgel, the chief federal prosecutor, besides the executive and legislative branches, contractors and their service contracts with the GDF are being examined.

    A new twist to the investigation is that the whistleblower, Durval Barbosa, who exposed the wrongdoings, is negotiating a plea bargain that will now include information about suspect contracts during the administration of Joaquim Roriz who was an appointed governor of the DF from 1988 to 1990, before the governor was elected; he was then elected in 1990 to a full term (1990 to 1994).

    Elected governor again in 1998, and reelected in 2002 (1998 to 2006). In short, during the last 22 years, Roriz has been the governor of the DF for 14 of those years.

    Gurgel says it is possible the kickbacks and bribes that Durval revealed did not begin in the Arruda administration. “What we want is a complete investigation. We know this did not begin with Arruda, but at the moment all we have is evidence of crimes during the Arruda administration,” said the prosecutor.

    Durval Barbosa faces at least seven criminal charges for irregular contracts that he signed when he was the director of the GDF Planning Corporation (Codeplan) with a charity, the Instituto Candango de Solidariedade, worth 247 million reais (US$ 139 million). The contracts date from 2004, when Roriz was governor.


    Brasília’s governor, José Roberto Arruda, has been in a special cell at Federal Police headquarters since February 11. As an elected official he has “privileged accommodations” and is not sent to a common jail cell. 

    He was incarcerated after an emissary was caught red-handed trying to bribe a witness in an investigation of a corruption ring in the governor’s administration.

    March 16, the Federal District Regional Electoral Court (TRE-DF) sentenced him to forfeiture of office ruling that he was guilty of party infidelity. Brazil has what amounts to an almost parallel judicial system that deals only with elections. 

    With regard to the TRE-DF ruling and Arruda’s electoral crime, the facts are: immediately after the existence of the corruption ring became public at the end of November, with videotapes of the governor and aides receiving wads of money being shown on TV around the clock, Arruda resigned from his political party, the DEM.

    First, the TRE-DF ruled that there was no justifiable reason for him to resign from the party.  Then, the TRE-DF reasoned that as the office of governor belongs to the political party, not the person, and Arruda is no longer a member of the political party, he is no longer the governor.

    Arruda’s lawyers made two claims in his defense: one, that the deadline for any forfeiture of office motion based on party infidelity had passed, and, two, that Arruda left the DEM because of “personal discrimination,” which is accepted by Electoral courts as a justification for leaving a political party.

    Meanwhile, the Legislative Chamber (Assembly) of the Federal District (CLDF) has begun making preparations for electing a substitute. First, they had to change the local constitution (“Lei Orgânica”) to make it compatible with the federal constitution so they (the CLDF) can elect a substitute (it should be recalled that the vice governor resigned). As things stand now, if the CLDF gets its way, the election should take place by April 17.

    However, federal attorneys, led by the government’s Chief Prosecutor, Roberto Gurgel, are strongly opposed to allowing the members of the CLDF to have anything to do with putting someone else in the governor’s seat.

    Gurgel is ironic about the possibility, pointing out that first they have to change their own law so they can have an indirect election for a new governor. “And who is going to elect the new governor? The same deputies involved [in the corruption ring]?  The same deputies accused of participating in this criminal scheme that has been running the Federal District? And who is the new governor going to be? Certainly someone closely linked to the same deputies.”

    Gurgel insists that the best way out of the situation is federal intervention.



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