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Contributor: Anonymous
Sao Paolo?s first Black mayor in million dollar scam

The first Black mayor of Sao Paulo ? the largest city in Latin America ? has been found guilty of fraud by a state financial court. The Case against Mayor Celso Pitta who, last year, was elected as mayor in a historic election (Black Perspective Issue No 7 Feb/Mar 1997) involved a municipal bond scam that occurred before he was elected mayor.

The scandal, investigated by Brazil?s congress, involved what has become known as - the chain of happiness. State and local bonds were sold and resold at large discounts by banks and brokerage houses, then repurchased by the government for their original issue price. The scandal which took place when Pitta was Sao Paulo?s Treasury Secretary, was alleged to have cost the city about 10.7 milion Reais (9.72 million dollars). Also implicated with Pitta were Sao Paulo?s former public debt coordinator, Wagner Ramos, and 15 financial institutions.

Passing Judgement on December 22 last year, Judge Pedro Aurelio Pires Maringolo described Pitta as one who ?does not have the necessary integrity to hold public office?. He ordered that Pitta be removed as mayor, be barred from political activity for eight years, and pay a fine of 29-million dollars.

The case against Pitta resulted from a Congressional Committee of Inquiry which, during an investigation into countrywide bond fraud, found evidence that state officials and bond traders colluded to siphon off more than 220 million Reais ($200 million) from the scam. Three of Brazil?s 27 states - Alagoas, Pernambuco, Santa Catarina - and three municipalities - Sao Paulo, Osasco, Guarulhos - were found to have been involved in the scam. The CPI also assigned a degree of blame to former Sao Paulo mayor Paulo Maluf.

Mayor Pitta has always denied any wrongdoing and is appealing the sentence. He has also vowed to remain in office until the appeal is concluded. Responding to the sentence, the mayor said: ?the process of this case ensures that I will remain in office, in conformity with the law. When I am officially notified of the sentence I will appeal, and I have the guarantee that it will not take effect until the final judgment. I will continue running the city of Sao Paulo, which is my job.

Legal experts agree that the final judgment of the case will probably take several years, so Pitta will be able to see out his term in the year 2000. That notwithstanding, the case is a setback for the African community in Brazil which, despite accounting for 59% of the population, only had its first senator a couple of years before Pitta was elected.
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