Pizza with the (Public) Works

Money laundering, illegal campaign donations, tax evasion, overbilling on public works contracts, ...and pizza? Read on, and you'll learn the connection.

Camargo Corrêa, one of Brazil's construction giants, has been busted for what Federal Police call a complex scheme to funnel millions of dollars from public infrastructure projects to political candidates. Among the projects being investigated for kick-backs is the navigation lock construction at Tucuruí Dam and, according to one report, Camargo Corrêa's involvement in studies for Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River.

Images of the company's directors being led away in handcuffs may have shocked the Brazilian public. But apparently, those most outraged by the arrests were Brazilian political leaders, including President Lula, who decried the "pyrotechnics" of the police in publishing transcripts of wire taps where company officials detailed money transfers to fiscal paradises and donations to political parties using the São Paulo Federation of Industries and the son of a General Accounting Office minister as middlemen.

Camargo Corrêa has been synonymous with "mega-projects" for decades. Active in 20 countries, the company has built some of Brazil's largest and most controversial dam projects, including the Tucuruí, Barra Grande, Campos Novos, and now the Estreito and Jirau dams. The company is also involved in the construction of Mphanda Nkuwa Dam in Mozambique and Porce III Dam in Colombia.

The former Justice Minister under the Lula government, Thomaz Bastos, obtained the directors' release on habeas corpus last weekend.

So, what's pizza got to do with this? Brazilians have coined a phrase to describe what happens as a result of the country's numerous corruption scandals, for which hardly anyone is ever punished.  At the end of the day, it all "ends up with a pizza", and everyone goes on with their lives.