The Persecution of Daniel Dantas: An Italian Opera in (?) Acts


“Nahas takes on the market.” Onassis had his Oriana Fallaci. The postmodern diversified latifundiario has his Leonardo Attuch.

Tudo em benefício do orelhudo: “All for the benefit of the big-eared banker.”

CartaCapital magazine (Brazil) has a special place in its heart for investment banker Daniel Dantas, who is currently on trial here for hiring Kroll to conduct illegal wiretapping of government officials, business competitors and partners, and journalists, as part of a virulent boardroom dispute at Brasil Telecom.

Including journalists working for the magazine.

The affair is somewhat comparable, I suppose you could say, to the Hewlett-Packard boardroom scandal, except that press coverage of that matter did not tend to promote complex conspiracy theories intended to promote the idea, for example, that general counsel Ann Baskin — who took the Fifth Amendment before a congressional committee probing the affair — is, as Lee Harvey Oswald claimed, a mere “patsy” in the affair.

That is what the Brazilian weekly’s most recent editorial suggests goes on in this case, however, both here and now in Italy.

Quite a bit of ink has also been spilled in this case on charges that Dantas bribed or otherwise coopted journalists to print disinformation that benefited his business interests. Such practices are, shall we say, not unheard of in Brazil.

Dantas maintains that the charges against him are trumped up, the result of a vast, bribe-driven conspiracy involving senior federal police officials, judges, elected officials, spies, baby-eating Communists, you name it. UFOs have not yet been cited as a factor, to my knowledge.

Veja magazine ran a story last year, for example, charging that the head of the federal police, as well as senior federal elected officials, including the federal president, personally controlled big, fat, dollar-denominated, undeclared offshore bank accounts.

This turned out not to be the case.

Much of what Veja reports turns out later not to have been the case, I tend to find.

Veja then identified Dantas as the source of the “dossier,” with a former CIA agent and Kroll executive as co-author.

It has since engaged in a vicious dispute with a journalist at a rival newsweekly, Leonardo Attuch — I am simplifying the plot some for TV, but this is basically what it looks like to me — whom it has sought to tar as the exclusive agent of skeevy disinformation in the affair.

Pot: “The kettle is black!”

One of these days I should translate some of that classic series in the annals of Brazilian investigative reporting for you.

I was just checking to see if I could still find it on Veja‘s Web site, in fact, but am finding that the site’s search engine is not actually producing search results at the moment. A database connectivity error, no doubt.

This theory is a bit difficult to maintain, the magazine points out, in light of the fact that the alleged criminal acts of Dantas and his codefendants predate the Telecom Italia spying affair, and the arrival of a TI security executive to whose account the bribery scheme is laid, by several years.

Some recent newsflow that is referred to in the piece:

Para desvendar o mistério talvez valesse recorrer ao comissário Maigret, a Poirot, a Nero Wolf, sem falar de Sherlock Holmes. Por que neste exato momento as duas semanais de informação italianas voltam a falar da operação de espionagem montada pela Telecom Italia no final da gestão de Marco Tronchetti Provera?

To solve the mystery one might have to consult with Inspector Maigret, with Poirot, with Nero Wolf, not to mention Sherlock Holmes. Why at this precise moment are two Italian newsweeklies returning to the topic of the espionage operation mounted by Telecom Italia near the end of Marco Tronchetti Provera’s tenure there?

Segundo a edição de Panorama da semana passada e de L’Espresso desta, surgem duas novidades. Uma, o esquema de espionagem transpôs as fronteiras da Península e invadiu o Brasil. Outra, a Telecom Italia teria cuidado de azeitar as negociações relativas à permanência da Tim no País, graças a um sistema de propinas sabiamente distribuídas entre autoridades nativas. Citados especificamente deputados da Comissão de Ciência e Tecnologia da Câmara.

According to last week’s edition of Panorama, and this week’s L’Espresso, there are two new bits of information here. One, that the wiretapping scheme overflowed the Italian border and invaded Brazil. The other, that Telecom Italia allegedly greased the skids for negotiations over the future of its TIM cellular subsidiary in Brazil with a system of bribes distributed among native officials. Specifically cited are federal deputies on the Science and Technology committee in the lower house of the federal legislature.

I will have to dust off my (pretty lousy) Italian some more and see if I can find those articles. Do names get named, for example?

Há poucas edições, CartaCapital publicou uma entrevista com Angelo Jannone, um dos responsáveis pelo setor de segurança da companhia no Brasil, na qual ele nega o pagamento de propinas a autoridades e policiais brasileiros. Na terça 6, Jannone foi colocado em cárcere domiciliar pelos promotores milaneses que prosseguem na apuração do caso.

A few issues ago, this magazine published an interview with Angelo Jannone, one of those responsible for TI corporate security in Brazil, in which he denies that bribes were paid to Brazilian police and authorities. On November 6, Jannone was placed under house arrest by Milan prosecutors who continue to look into the case.

Histórias intrincadas, que dizem muito sobre o método de atuação escolhido por executivos da operadora italiana, mas, como de costume, usadas no Brasil não para esclarecer os fatos e sim para embaralhá-los. Há método e objetivos claros na confusão. O principal deles? Fazer valer a tese de que todos os desmandos e, por que não, crimes cometidos pelo banqueiro Daniel Dantas foram uma ficção armada pela Telecom Italia, em conluio com autoridades, políticos e empresários brasileiros, com o único intuito de prejudicar o dono do Opportunity. Dantas, o perseguido, eis a imagem que se pretende criar. E ela não tem limites. Quem sabe fosse esta a chave oferecida pelos investigadores acima citados para aclarar a situação.

The articles tell an intricate story that says a lot about the methods chosen by executives of the Italian telecoms operator. As usual, however, they are being used here in Brazil, not to clarify the facts, but rather to muddy the waters. There is a method in this madness, and practical objectives, chief among them being to promote the theory that all of the misconduct and — why not say it? — crimes with which Dantas is charged were a fiction fabricated by Telecom Italia, in cahoots with Brazilian officials, politicians and businessmen, for the sole purpose of harming Dantas. Dantas, the persecuted: That’s the image they are trying to sell. …

Segundo a teoria, também estariam envolvidos na trama integrantes do Ministério Público, policiais federais e até um juiz da corte das Ilhas Cayman (atenção, o nome do magistrado é Kellock e não Kellog), onde o Opportunity perdeu todas as ações contra o empresário Luís Roberto Demarco, principal desafeto de DD. Toda essa engrenagem funcionaria à base de propina.

According to this theory, also in on the plot were federal prosecutors, federal police and even a judge in the Cayman Islands (whose name, by the way, is Kellock and not Kellog), where Opportunity lost all its lawsuits against Demarco, [the partner with whom Dantas had a falling out.] The entire apparatus allegedly fueled by bribes.

De forma consciente ou não, de maneira interessada ou não, jornalistas nativos contribuem para obscurecer os fatos (Dantas agradece). A começar pela quase completa omissão, na reprodução recente dos acontecimentos na Itália, do fato de Nahas ter sido apontado, na Panorama, como um intermediário de propinas a parlamentares. Incrivelmente, os textos publicados aqui conseguem falar da suposta operação sem mencionar Nahas, um dos personagens centrais da reportagem da revista.

Whether intentionally or not, and whether out of a personal interest in the case or not, Brazilian journalists are contributing to this muddying of the waters. (For which Dantas thanks them.) To start with, there is the near-complete omission, in recent reporting on events in Italy, of the fact that Nahas was pointed to by Panorama as a go-between in the scheme to bribe lawmakers. Incredibly, the reporting published here in Brazil has managed to describe this alleged operation without once mentioning Nahas, who is one of the central characters in the [Panorama] piece.

On Nahas, see also

Compreender o papel do investidor é essencial para iluminar a estratégia dantesca. Até a ascensão de Tronchetti Provera ao comando da Telecom Italia, os italianos viviam às turras com Dantas. A partir deste momento, e com a intermediação de Nahas, a Telecom começou a se aproximar do banqueiro brasileiro. Em 2005, a operadora de telefonia comprometeu-se a pagar cerca de 1 bilhão de reais pelas ações do Opportunity na Brasil Telecom. O acordo foi desfeito um ano mais tarde. Ainda assim, Dantas embolsou 50 milhões de euros para encerrar as inúmeras pendências judiciais entre as partes (o que, como se viu depois, ele não tinha poder para fazer). Nahas, intermediário, teria embolsado 25 milhões de reais na transação.

Understanding the role of Nahas is essential to understanding the Dantas defense strategy. Before Trochetti Provera assumed command of TI, the Italians were at odds with Dantas. With his arrival, and with Nahas as broker, TI began a rapprochement with the banker. In 2005, TI committed to paying some R$1 billion for Opportunity’s stake in Brasil Telecom. The deal was undone one year later. Even so, Dantas pocketed €50 million in return for agreeing to settle the numerous lawsuits among the parties (which, as it turned out later, he was not authorized to do.) Nahas, the go-between, reportedly pocketed R$25 million in the deal.

O investidor não gosta muito de ver essa relação exposta. Irrita-se, faz ameaças. Na quarta 7, por exemplo, após ver a história da Panorama relatada no Blog do Mino, enviou uma correspondência “confidential and personal”, na qual ameaça o diretor de redação deste modesto semanário com “medidas judiciais cabíveis”. Por que Nahas está tão nervoso?

Nahas is not too happy about seeing this relationship exposed. Irritated, he is making threats. On Wednesday, November 7, after reading about the Panorama article on the blog of our editor in chief, Mino Carta, he sent Mino a “personal and confidential” letter in which he threatened the editor of this modest weekly with “appropriate legal action.”

E Daniel Dantas? Ele continua alvo de investigações que pouco ou quase nada têm a ver com os crimes cometidos pela operadora multinacional (à parte as semelhanças de estilo em lidar com adversários e desafetos). A grampolândia montada por DD antecede a espionagem efetuada pelos italianos, realizada em geral na Itália. Mas não se exclua a possibilidade de que o próprio orelhudo tenha meios para influenciar jornalistas peninsulares. Aqui ele tem com os nativos.

And Dantas? He remains the target of investigations that have little or almost nothing to do with the crimes committed by the Italian multinational (despite the similarities in their way of dealing with opponents.) The [wiretapping au go go] engaged in by Dantas predated the Italian job, which was for the most part confined to Italy. But the possibility cannot be ruled out that the big-eared banker might have ways of influencing Italian journalists. As he has here, with our native press.

O dossiê com supostas contas do presidente Lula, ministros, um senador e do ex-diretor-geral da Polícia Federal, como atesta a própria Veja, foi entregue pelo banqueiro e, a mando dele, confeccionado por um ex-agente da CIA e ex-executivo da Kroll. São registros emblemáticos, luminares, capazes de servir de farol, principalmente quando um nevoeiro criado de propósito tenta encobrir o que resta de verdade factual na trama.

The dossier on the alleged offshore accounts owned by Lula, cabinet ministers and the former director of the Federal Police, as Veja itself attests, was delivered to Veja by the banker and, at his request, fabricated by a former CIA agent and Kroll executive. These facts are emblematic, luminous, capable of serving as a lighthouse to guide us through the fog intentionally created to conceal the remaining facts to be discovered in this case.

If the great John Adams could create opera out of contemporary events, such as Nixon in China or The Death of Klinghoffer, about the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, it often occurs to me that this whole saga has operatic possibilities as well.

It reminds me, in fact, of a production of Handel’s Agrippina that we saw at the Met a few years back, set in Fascist Italy, with Futurist sets and Guys and Dolls costuming appropriate to the period.

All the intrigue of the Banco Lombrosiano affair and all the meat-headed brutality of a Jacobean revenger’s tragedy.

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