No offence to the good people of Brazil but when you find yourself casting envious eyes at the treatment of high profile financial crime in the South American republic, you know something is rotten in our own European republic. From Alex Cuadros writing for the Baffler:
STRANGE THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN BRAZIL: billionaires are going to jail. This includes Eike Batista, once the eighth-richest person in the world, who was arrested in January. Accused of paying $16.5 million in bribes, he was placed in a 160-square-foot cell with six other prisoners who shared a single fan and a single squat toilet and a single tap where the water turned on just a few times a day. His head was shaved—a standard procedure in Rio de Janeiro’s prison system, but one that came as a shock to those who remembered how he had once bragged on TV about his $30,000 wig. People used to call Eike the Donald Trump of Brazil. He kept a silver SLR McLaren in his living room.
In the past couple of years, two other Brazilians from the Forbeslist have ended up behind bars: the construction tycoon Marcelo Odebrecht (convicted of corruption) and the investment banker André Esteves (still awaiting trial). Along with dozens of other executives, lobbyists, and politicians, they were ensnared in a federal police investigation known as Operation Car Wash, which has exposed a multibillion-dollar kickback scheme that doubled as a kind of parallel campaign-finance system. Even the patrician president, Michel Temer, has been implicated. This is a big deal given that, for most of Brazil’s history, the rich routinely bought or bullied judges and only the poor faced the full extent of the law. The crimes uncovered, though, are not unique to Brazil. The fall of Eike Batista is actually a story about the ethics of the business class, whatever its nationality.
Indeed it is. As the Irish Times notes in relation to Seán FitzPatrick, the former chairman of the now defunct Anglo Irish Bank, who was acquitted yesterday in a surprise decision by his trial judge:
He was twice tried on charges of misleading Anglo’s auditors, with both of the trials collapsing before the charges went to the jury, and had earlier faced charges to do with the so-called Maple 10 loans, where he was found not guilty by the jury.
There are no further charges pending against the former multimillionaire banker and his time in the criminal courts system comes to an end on Wednesday when the jury will be told to acquit him of all charges in relation to the misleading of Anglo’s auditors.
The trial that just ended sat for 126 days, since September. The busy court building plays host to people facing a wide range of charges, from minor drugs offences, to murder.
Over recent years the former banker who was, before the bust, credited with running one of the world’s most successful banks, would regularly be seen in the courthouse cafe sitting alongside people in tracksuits awaiting trials on minor offences.
It was not unknown for some of the other defendants attending the building to greet Mr FitzPatrick by name and wish him well.
Of course, the people in the tracksuits can’t afford the same high-flying solicitors and barristers that the people in the suits can. Which is why the vast majority of those charged with “blue collar” offences will be convicted in court while their “white collar” equivalents walk away. Even without the inexplicable behavior of the investigatory and prosecuting authorities, which ultimately benefited FitzPatrick in his already troubling case.
Meanwhile, from the same publication, news that the Fine Gael-led minority government has decided to appoint several judges to vacant positions in the high and circuit courts. Unsurprisingly, some of these individuals have close links to the party.
The Cabinet has decided to make a number of judicial appointments, including a number with Fine Gael links, to fill vacancies arising because of the retirement of a number of judges.
Solicitor Eileen Creedon and senior counsel Charles Meenan have been nominated to fill two vacancies in the High Court. The formal appointments will be made by the President.
Ms Creedon is the Chief State Solicitor, while Mr Meenan has practised as a senior counsel since 1998. He is a member of a well-known Dublin legal and medical family, which has long been associated with Fine Gael.
Unusually, the Government also approved three nominations to fill vacancies that will not occur until later in the year. Brian O’Shea, a barrister, will be appointed to the District Court on June 16th when Judge Aeneas McCarthy retires. Barristers Martina Baxter and Eoin Garavan will be appointed to the Circuit Court in August and October, once other retirements take place.
Mr Garavan is a former Fine Gael member of Castlebar Town Council, and is a son of the late Judge John Garavan.
The announcement takes place just ahead of next week’s publication of proposed legislation heralding the long-demanded reform of judicial appointments.
How’s that for timing?