São Paulo Diary: Liberty for the Law King of the Camelôs!


 The camelódromo on the Calçadão de Mascates, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. Can street vendors survive selling only legitimate goods? Can enough real jobs and small-business opportunities be created to absorb a shrinking of the astonishingly mobbed-up Sino-Paraguayan gizmo and infotainment sector? These are fascinating questions.

O arnesto nos convidô prum samba, ele mora no brás Nóis fumo e não encontremos ninguém Nóis vortemo cuma baita duma reiva Da outra veiz nóis num vai mais Nóis não semos tatu! — “O Samba do Arnesto,” Adoniran Barbosa


Novo shopping de Law Kin Chong promete combate à pirataria: The King of the São Paulo camelôs — informal street vendors — though still technically serving a four-year sentence after being found guilty of active corruption in 2004, is about to launch a new shopping mall in downtown São Paulo, and promises it will be free of Sino-Paraguayan pirated goods. He still awaits trial on other charges, including money laundering, smuggling, and tax evasion. G1/Globo reports. It also reports, in its front-page headline:

A case of innovations in postmodern orthography? Is Law Kin the Law King? Hard to tell. The Estado de S. Paulo, likewise, can be found spelling the name differently within the same paragraph in this article on the man.

Um novo shopping de comércio popular que o empresário Law Kin Chong pretende inaugurar até o fim de novembro no Pari, região central de São Paulo, promete combater a pirataria. Chong é acusado de ser o maior contrabandista do país e foi preso pela Polícia Federal (PF) por corrupção ativa em junho de 2004.

A new shopping mall for “popular trade” which businessman Law Kin Chong intends to open later this month in Pari, in central São Paulo, promises to combat piracy. Chong has been accused of being the biggest smuggler in Brazil and was arrested by federal police for active corruption in June 2004. More specifically, the China-born naturalized Brazilian citizen was convicted of trying to bribe the president of a federal legislative commission investigating piracy of industrial products, Luiz Antônio de Medeiros (PL-SP), in 2004. The attempt was captured on hidden video, if I remember correctly. (Maybe I don’t, so don’t quote me.) His name was cited 64 times in the final report of that CPI, where he receives an entire chapter. Gripping reading:

Dado o poderio de Law, a operação que culminou com a sua prisão só foi possível porque os policiais federais de Brasília se locomoveram para São Paulo de carro, a fim de que não houvesse vazamento da operação. Afinal, era com o vazamento de notícias sobre diligências que Law Kin Chong vinha conseguindo se manter incólume.

Given Law’s power and influence, the operation that culminated in his arrest was only possible because federal police agents from Brasília traveled to São Paulo by car, to avoid any leak of the operation. After all, it was through leaked information about police actions that Law Kin Chong had been able to avoid prosecution over the years. I am picturing these poor guys singing the local version of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and stopping along the way for a little Goianian cow-tipping to break the monotony. His name is also connected in some way to federal police agents and judges arrested in Operation Anaconda a few years back — a really, really wooly “buy one judge and get one free” sort of thing. I need to read up on that.

“O objetivo é também cooperar com o combate à pirataria. Eles [camelôs e lojistas] serão previamente avisados de que não poderão trabalhar com produtos que não sejam regulares. Por isso a exigência de CNPJ [Cadastro Nacional de Pessoas Jurídicas], para que a gente não tenha nenhuma surpresa em relação a esse tipo de produto”, afirma Antônio Carlos Campanhã, administrador do shopping e também diretor da União dos Lojistas do Brás.

“The object is to cooperate in combating piracy. They [street vendors and shop-owners] will receive prior warning that they may not work with irregular products. For that reason, the demand for a National Registry of [Corporations], so we will have no surprises with respect to this type of product,” says Antônio Carlos Campanhã, manager of the new mall and also president of the Shopkeepers Union of Brás. My wife spent part of her childhood growing up on the streets of Brás, spiritual homeland of Adoniran Barbosa. The “Samba do Arnesto” seemed like an appropriate epigraph to the whole episode:

“Arnaldo invited us over for a night of samba, he lives over in Brás, but when we got there, we found the place deserted. We went home really, really mad. Next time, we’re not going! We are not [proverbially pea-brained?] armadillos!”

Barbosa was known for his fractured Portuguese, and not even my wife really knows what tatu signifies in this context. Scouting the premises:

O Shopping Pari terá espaço para 1.400 barracas e 400 boxes. De acordo com Campanhã, o projeto ocupa um prédio na Avenida Vautier cuja área total gira em torno de 30 mil m². Ele confirma que Law Kin Chong é o empreendedor do estabelecimento, registrado em nome da Calinda Administração e Participação e Comércio Ltda. Chong também é dono do Shopping 25 de Março, na mesma região da cidade.

The Pari Shopping Center has room for 1,400 stalls and 400 “boxes.” According to Campanhã, the project occupies a building on Avenida Vautier with a total area of around 30,000 square meters. He confirms that Law King Chong is the owner of the establishment, which is registered in the name of Calinda [Management, Investment and Commerce, Limited]. Chong also owns the 25 Março Shopping Center in the same area. You have not shopped until you have shopped the 25 de Março. And dropped, into the bargain. Perhaps the free-wheeling souks of medieval legend offered an emotionally richer and more confusing experience, but it is certainly one of the most disorienting places I have ever been to. Weren’t there bomb attacks on police in the area around the time the city was trying to close this shopping center down?

A Subprefeitura da Mooca, responsável pela área, informa que o alvará do shopping ainda não foi emitido, mas apenas por uma questão de prazo. “O local não está funcionando porque ainda não atendeu a todas as exigências. Se ele atender, eu também não tenho instrumentos para impedir [o funcionamento]. Se ele vender alguma coisa ilícita, é uma questão de polícia”, diz o subprefeito Eduardo Odloak.

The Subprefecture of Mooca, which oversees the area, informs that a permit has not yet been issued for the facility, but that this is merely a matter of timing. “The location is not functioning because not all the requirements have been met at this point. If he meets them, I have no means available to stop it [from operating.]. If he sells something illegal, it is a question for the police,” said deputy mayor Eduardo Odloak. The gentleman has a reputation for owning the police to an extent that legal proceedings have yet to fully clarify. (And judges.)

Em nota, a subprefeitura afirmou que o shopping será alvo de fiscalizações como todos os estabelecimentos da região. “A Subprefeitura Mooca não oferece qualquer apoio a iniciativas particulares daquela natureza, mas sim fiscaliza os espaços no que diz respeito à documentação necessária para funcionamento, conforme prevê a legislação”, afirma a nota.

In a press release, the subprefecture says that shopping center will be the subject of inspections just like other commercial establishments in the area. “Mooca does not offer any support to private enterprises of this kind, but does inspect such premises for the necessary operating licenses, as provided for by law,” the statement says.

Odloak informou que a função da prefeitura é checar documentos e garantir que o estabelecimento atenda a todas as normas de funcionamento. Segundo ele, não cabe à prefeitura verificar quem é o dono, já que o shopping está em nome de uma empresa legal.

Odloak said the city government’s job is to check documents and make sure the premises comply with all rules. According to him, it is not up to the city government to verify who the owner is, given that the shopping center is in the name of a legal business.

Shopping para camelôs

A mall for camelôs

O objetivo do shopping, segundo o administrador, é atrair camelôs que desejam se legalizar. “Além de retirar da informalidade, estaríamos retirando das ruas”, diz Campanhã. Uma das idéias é trazer para o shopping os vendedores ambulantes que trabalhavam na chamada “feirinha da madrugada” do Brás.

The objective of the mall, its manager says, is to attract camelôs who want to turn legitimate. “Besides rescuing them from informality, we are taking them off the street,” says Campanhã. One idea is to bring strolling street vendors who work the so-called “after-midnight market” of Brás to the location.

Para se instalar no 1º andar do prédio, o vendedor ambulante precisa pagar R$ 400 por uma barraca com a estrutura padrão, R$ 450 pela taxa de inscrição e um aluguel que pode ser de R$ 250 ou R$ 320 mensais, dependendo do tamanho da barraca – há dois modelos de estrutura. A idéia é que o shopping funcione 24 horas, mas, logo depois da inauguração, o horário de atendimento será da 1h às 18h.

To reserve a spot on the second floor, a street vendor has to pay R$400 for a standard stall, a R$450 subscription fee and rent that can vary from $R250 to R$320 a month, depending on the size of the stall. There are two models of stall to choose from. The idea is for the mall to operate 24 hours a day, but when it opens, business hours will be from 1 am to 6 pm.

Corrupção ativa

Active corruption

Chong é acusado de ser o maior contrabandista do país. Dono do Shopping 25 de Março, no Centro de São Paulo, ele foi preso pela Polícia Federal (PF) por corrupção ativa em junho de 2004. Na ocasião, o empresário controlava outros dois shoppings e várias lojas na Galeria Pagé, na região central da capital paulista. Ele responde a processo por lavagem de dinheiro, contrabando, evasão de divisas e sonegação fiscal.

Accused of being the biggest smuggler in Brazil, and owner of the 25 de Março shopping center in downtown São Paulo, he was arrested by the feds in 2004 for active corruption. At the time, he controlled another two malls and various stores in the Galeria Pagé, also in the downtown area. He is currently on trial for money laundering, smuggling, avoidance of customs duties, and tax evasion. I guess this is sort of a corporate social responsiblity exercise on his part, then?

No dia 14 de junho deste ano, ele deixou o Instituto Penal Agrícola (IPA), na cidade de Bauru, a 343 km de São Paulo, após a Justiça ter determinado que ele cumprisse pena em regime semi-aberto em sua casa, no bairro do Morumbi, na Zona Sul.

On June 14 of this year, he left the IPA prison facility in Bauru, 343 km from São Paulo, after a court ruled he could serve his sentence at his home in Morumbi, southern district of São Paulo, in a semi-open regime. Home to our cordially despised crosstown rivals, the São Paulo Football Club, and part of the Butantã and Campo Limpo subprefectures. (The deputy mayor of Butantã was under investigation for getting bribed to let illegal gambling joints operate on his turf a while back. Whatever happened to that? Or the investigation into a “mafia spreadsheet” found on an arrested lawyer, indicating payoffs to 90% of the state police precincts for the same purpose?)

O juiz determinou, na época, que ele teria que ficar em sua residência durante todos os fins de semana. Nos dias úteis, ele deve estar em casa sempre das 19h às 7h. Ele poderá trabalhar, desde que seja comprovadamente um trabalho lícito.

The judge ruled at the time that he would have be confined to his home during the weekends. On working days, he must be home between 7 pm and 7 am. He can work, as long as the work is demonstrably legal.


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