Brazilian Police Blotter: “Biblical Plague of Ghost Employees in Alagoan Assembly!”

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A southern Brazilian species of
taturana (lonomia obliqua), also known as the bicho cabeludo. The name comes from a Tupi word meaning “like fire,” after its voracious feeding habits.

The latest from the Agência de Notícias de [da?] Polícia Federal (Brazil) involves alleged plundering of the treasury in the great state of Alagoas.

Alagoas is something like the Texas of Brazil, you could sort of say, in certain ways (but not in others). I just mean, generally, that strange things happen there, but tend to remain murky and without resolution, while curious figures dominate the political landscape. Both seem to have infected the rest of their respective nations with their own peculiar political culture. Both have to deal with the pernicious economics of narcotranshipment. Just a thought.

In other news, the local OAB (bar association) is calling on the state government to federalize public security in the state.  The state judicial police have been on strike there for 120 days.

The Agência Estado cites the current state government as reporting that the former PTB governor of the state is involved in the case.

O ex-governador Manuel Gomes de Barros (PTB) estaria envolvido nas fraudes, segundo a Secretaria de Comunicação de Alagoas.

Former governor Gomes de Barros is allegedly involved in the frauds, according to the state secretary of communications.

The Federal Police is not called to confirm, deny or decline to comment on this.

Alagoas 24 Horas cites “extraofficial” sources for the same rumor, and reports now that the federal police have denied that state lawmakers were detained.

A PF evita – a exemplo da Operação Carranca – divulgar nome dos presos, mas informações extra-oficiais dão conta de que há um ex-governador do Estado preso sob a acusação de integrar a rede criminosa que desviava dinheiro da Assembléia Legislativa de Alagoas.

The feds — following the example of Operation Carranca — are avoiding publishing the names of the persons arrrested, but extraofficial source are saying a former governor was arrested on suspicion of belonging to the embezzlement scheme. 

The AE cites police sources saying that parliamentary immunity presents a barrier to it doing so.

Ainda de acordo com a Polícia Federal, a prisão dos deputados envolvidos é dificultada devido à imunidade que os políticos possuem, já que eles só podem ser presos em flagrante.

Also according to the Federal Police, arresting the deputies involved is difficult due to the immunity that politicians have, which means they can only be arrested in flagrante.

That point is not in the press release. Did the PF say that officially or extraofficially?

The regional Primeiras Notícias characterizes news of the Gomes de Barros arrest as “speculation,” meanwhile:

As informações ainda são desencontradas mas especula-se que o deputado Cícero Ferro, o ex-parlamentar Celso Luis e o ex-governador Manoel Gomes de Barros teriam sido detidos. Surgiu ainda a informação de que o presidente da ALE, Antônio Albuquerque, estaria prestando depoimento neste momento. Manoel Gomes de Barros teria sido preso na Fazenda Jurema, em União dos Palmares e deve chegar na sede da PF, em Maceió dentro de instantes.

Information is still lacking, but it is speculated that deputy Ferro, former lawmaker Celso Luis and former governor Gomes de Barros might have been detained. Information also emerged that the president of the legislative assembly, Albuquerque, is giving a statement at the moment. Gomes de Barros is said to be under arrest in União dos Palmares and is due to give a statement at PF headquarters in Maceió at any moment. 

The Estado is the only news agency I have seen so far who provides a (generic, institutional) source for the “rumor” about Gomes de Barros.

What was the name of the person they spoke to at the state government press office?

Was the Estado’s official source the same as the “extraofficial” sources cited by other news desks?

This apparently happens. See, for example:

Globo’s Leitão was attributing statements to “insider sources” at the very same moment that Globo’s G1 news portal were attributing essentially the same statements to a named source — a Supreme Court justice.

Interesting new twist from the federal flacks: As part of the press release, they explain why they gave the operation the name.

I do tend to think that whoever makes these names up has a pretty good literary education and a measure of sprezzatura.  Operation Themis, for example, was named after a Greek goddess of Justice, and involved judicial bribery.

Here in São Paulo, a military police operation to clean up the drug trade in the shantytowns was dubbed Operation Saturation, then changed to the Virada Social — a bid to associate the operation with the Virada Cultural, a  cultural “tour” of various festival sites in the city. No change of tactics, just a change of name.  See

Maceió/AL – Polícia Federal deflagra hoje, 06, a operação Taturana no estado de Alagoas. O objetivo da ação é dissolver uma organização criminosa instalada na Assembléia Legislativa do Estado de Alagoas.

The Federal Police is carrying out operation Taturana in the state of Alagoas. The objective is to break up a criminal organization in the state legislative assembly.

A quadrilha se apropriava de recursos da casa através de sua folha de pagamentos, com a inclusão de funcionários fantasmas e laranjas. Em outra modalidade de fraude, os envolvidos declaravam à Receita Federal retenções de imposto de renda em valores superiores aos efetivamente retidos. Dessa forma, os criminosos ainda se beneficiavam das restituições de imposto de renda promovidas pela Receita Federal aos falsos funcionários.

This group was misappropriating House resources through its payroll, with the hiring of ghost employees and fronts. In another fraudulent practice, those involved would declare amounts of income tax withholding to the federal tax authority that exceeded the actual amount withheld. In this way, the criminals could also get their hands on tax rebates to the phony employees. 

Estima-se que o valor desviado da Assembléia Legislativa pode chegar a 200 milhões de reais nos últimos cinco anos.

It is estimated that the sum misappropriated from the legislative assembly might be as high as $R200 over five years.

370 policiais federais cumprem 79 mandados de busca e apreensão e mandados de prisão autorizados pela Desembargadora Federal do Tribunal Regional Federal da 5ª Região.

370 feds served 79 search and arrest warrants authorized by a federal judge from the Fifth Region.

A polícia Federal investigou a quadrilha durante um ano e seis meses e contou com a colaboração da Receita Federal, Banco Central, COAF e Ministério Público Federal.

The feds have been investigating the scheme for a year and a half and received the assistance of the tax authority, the central bank, COAF [the Brazilian FinCEN], and the federal prosecutor’s office. 

Os presos serão conduzidos à Superintendência de Polícia Federal em Alagoas, onde serão ouvidos.

Those arrested will be questioned at PF headquarters in Maceió.

O nome Taturana é uma referência a lagarta que come folhas sem parar durante sua existência.

The name of the operation refers to a caterpillar who eats leaves continuously throughout its life cycle.

Like a Biblical plague of locusts.

Será concedida entrevista coletiva na sede da Polícia Federal em Maceió/AL, às 10h (horário local).

A press conference will be held at 10 am local time in Maceió.

Mostly, this is an interesting chance for me to do some reading in the regional press there in Alagoas — and collect more data on Brazilian message control, or lack thereof.

The last gubernatorial elections there generated mass confusion, and resulted in the formation of a congressional subcommittee on the security of the electronic voting system.

The former president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, was cleared yesterday, in a second impeachment vote, of charges that he improperly controlled two radio stations in the state.

Two other cases against him were arquivados — tabled, or “round-filed.”

The other Senator from the state is (impeached) former president Collor of the PTB.

His first cousin heads the federal elections tribunal, which runs the electronic voting system.

I wonder if you could compare this case to the one involving Belo Horizonte Baldy and the president of the PSDB, then a candidate for governor, in Minas Gerais (in which candidates from 17 different parties received campaign donations from pubic funds allegedly laundered out of state-owned firms by political-patronage appointees.)

That is, I wonder if political caixa dois — “slush funding” — was involved.


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