Stricter Law May Spell Trouble for Brazil’s Money Laundering Politicians

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A bill recently approved by the Brazilian Senate expands the definiton of money laundering, and may make it easier to prosecute government officials guilty of the crime.

Brazil’s main anti-money laundering statute, passed in 1998, states that suspects can only be prosecuted if the laundered cash originated from drug trafficking, arms trafficking, kidnapping, and a range of other activities linked to organized crime.

A new bill, passed by the Brazilian Senate on June 6, allows suspects to be prosecuted for handling money that comes from any illicit source, not just those on a predefined list.

The bill also raises the maximum prison term for money laundering from three to 10 years, and the maximum fine from 200,000 reais (about $98,400) to 20 million reais (about $98 million). It also makes it easier for law enforcement to seize assets and property linked to crime.

The bill must now be signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff.

InSight Crime Analysis

By expanding the scope of activities for which suspected money launderers may be prosecuted, the new law may make it easier to prosecute “white-collar” crime in Brazil. This includes activities like fiscal evasion, concealing illicit goods, and the creation of slush funds which are typically associated with government officials.

The expansion of these terms has caused some critics to say the bill “trivializes” money laundering by making it too easy to charge people with the crime.

According to a 2008 article published by Brazilian business newspaper Valor Economico and translated by Brazil-based blogger Colin Brayton, it is thought that up to 70 percent of the money laundered in Brazil can be traced back to official corruption.

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