In the confined and shameless world of Brazilian politico-corporate corruption, it is more Versailles than Greenwich, Connecticut! With more trips to Rue Montaigne than to Wall Street, the loot is spent ostentatiously rather than invested with discretion. Last week a Brazilian newspaper ran an article entitled Fashion Week in Curitiba. Curitiba is the small capital of the small state of Paraná in southern Brazil. Since March 2014, the city’s claim to fame is not fashion, but Lava-jato, the Car Wash police investigation of the billion dollar corruption probe at state oil company Petrobras. It is the biggest graft and money laundering investigation ever held in Brazil. Curitiba is the seat of the investigation, and the city jails have become a social hub for jailed construction tycoons, crooked politicians and their respective lawyers and families.
Claudia Cruz, the 48 year old wife of Eduardo Cunha the former speaker of the lower house, visited her jailed husband dressed in Chanel. What else could she wear? There is only couture in her closets. Cunha is an Evangelical Christian and a leader among his peers. He is also the most reviled and wicked Brazilian politician, the poster boy of greed and hypocrisy. The family’s life style is more Kardashian than evangelical austerity. Cunha is accused of pocketing millions of dollars in bribes from contractors involved in Petrobras operations and squirreling his loot in offshore bank accounts. The police believes that he has between US$ 13 and 20 million hidden away in several foreign bank accounts. The Swiss government has already identified US$ 5 million.
Between 2008 and 2014, Claudia Cruz is suspected of having spent over US$ 1 million in clothing, hotels and restaurants in Paris, New York City and Miami. She spent US$ 60,000 on tennis lessons in Miami. A day in Paris does not come cheap either: US$ 10.000 is an average. These figures came to light after the police tallied her credit cards charges. Her splurging in couture fashion did not pay off, as she never made it to the best dressed list. Because many bank accounts are under her name, she may soon have to leave her couture in her closet and switch to a prison uniform.
Seen on the Curitiba catwalk
The Marie Antoinette’s lifestyle of the Cunhas is not uncommon among Brazilian political families. The former governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, who coincidentally is from the same party as Cunha, also made headlines with his extravagant lifestyle. If his spending pattern was similar, his paying methods were different. He did not charge on his own credit cards but that of his corporate friend Fernando Cavendish. Alternatively, he charged the state. In 2014, Cabral resigned as governor to run for the Senate, but dropped his bid when it was disclosed, among other failings, that he had used a state helicopter to commute to his beach house, carry his kids and nanny to school and dogs to the vet.
Happy Times in 2012.
Governor Cabral (left), Elke Batista (the guy who lost US$ 35 billion in less than 365 days) and president Dilma Rousseff (impeached)
Now, the anti-corruption judges are catching up with him. Cavendish, his former friend is in jail, and has agreed to a plea bargain. Cabral and his wife, Adriana Ancelmo loved luxury junkets to Paris and Monaco, all expenses paid for by Cavendish’s construction firm. The firm, which is appropriately named DELTA became the governor’s private travel agency. In return, Cavendish received juicy state contracts at inflated costs. During the “friendship”, the Cabrals indulged in luxury hotels, such as Hotel de Paris in Monaco (standard room rate €500.00), restaurants like the Louis XV (three Michelin stars) and gifts. One particular gift attracted the investigators’ attention: In 2009, Cavendish gave Adriana Ancelmo a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond ring as a birthday present. The price tag was €220,000.00! When Cavendish was investigated, the friendship ended and the gift was returned. Cabral claims that he never knew the value of the ring.
Fortunately, for Cunha and Cabral there is no guillotine in Brazil.
 Rio de Janeiro is his political base. He has been given many derogatory nicknames; my favorite is Xicun Cunha, pronounced like chikungunya.