Cornered, Brazil’s House Speaker Goes on the Attack

    In a news conference Sunday, September 11, Brazil’s Speaker of the House (president of the Chamber of Deputies), Severino Cavalcanti rebutted charges that he forced a restaurateur operating in the congressional office building to pay him monthly kickbacks.

    In his defense, Cavalcanti, averred that his signature on a document being used as proof of the scheme was false. The document in question extends the restaurateur’s concession contract.


    Cavalcanti based his affirmation on a report by a handwriting expert he (Cavalcanti) hired to examine the document. Later, the expert himself, however, declared that his findings were not conclusive since he had access only to a copy of the original document.


    Speaking to the media, Cavalcanti denied accusations made by the restaurateur, Sebastião Buani, that he was forced to pay Cavalcanti, then first secretary of the Chamber, US$ 4,300 (R$ 10,000) in monthly payments in order to have his concession contract extended in January 2003.


    Cavalcanti and Buani disagree fiercely about the exact date of the extension: January 3, says Cavalcanti; January 31, says Buani.


    The importance of the date is that Cavalcanti alleges that by January 24 the new contract was in effect, which would make a meeting on January 31 unnecessary. Buani says the January 31 meeting was when Cavalcanti demanded his kickback.


    There is also disagreement about the existence of a check Buani is supposed to have used to pay one of his monthly kickback installments to Cavalcanti.


    “There is talk of a mysterious check that someone who works for me is supposed to have cashed. Before the check, there was talk of credit card payments and many other checks. Lies, lies, lies,” declared Cavalcanti.


    During the news conference Cavalcanti referred to Buani numerous times as a liar, blackmailer and unscrupulous.


    ABr

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