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SPECIAL ENVOY TO RIO – FOLHA DE SAO PAULO
The disclosure of the documents known as the "Panama Papers" and the investigations into the Lava Jato (Car Wash Operation) at Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in 2016 dug into the activities of lawyers who create companies headquartered in tax havens, called offshore companies, in order to hide misappropriated dirty money.
There is a group of lawyers that is working on the exact opposite side of this counter.
In 2004, the International Chamber of Commerce organized a network of professionals from different firms to provide services to victims of fraud, corruption and commercial crimes, called FraudNet.
In addition to traditional judicial measures, the lawyers set up investigative teams to discover the location of assets illegally taken from public and private entities.
Today, the group has 76 members scattered in different law firms in 66 countries.
Lawyers from FraudNet have already worked for Brazilian clients in cases with major repercussion.
The most famous of these cases was the proceeding filed before the Jersey Court in 2009 against two offshore companies whose control was attributed to the former mayor and current Federal Representative Paulo Maluf (PP-SP).
The Attorney General’s Office of the State of Sao Paulo hired lawyers from the network who acted in Jersey, and who accused the companies of receiving money embezzled by Maluf during the time of his administration in Sao Paulo, between 1993 and 1996.
Based on evidence provided by the Sao Paulo State Prosecutor’s Office, the Jersey Court recognized the connection between Maluf com and the companies and ordered them to return US$ 32 million to the Brazilian public treasury. Maluf always denied committing any crime related to the two companies.
Members of FraudNet were also hired by the public administration for misappropriations in construction work of the Tribunal Regional Labor Court in Sao Paulo, which led to the conviction of ex-judge Nicolau dos Santos Neto, a.k.a. Lalau.
In the private sphere, the network acted in the case of Banco Santos, of banker Edemar Cid Ferreira, whose bankruptcy was declared in 2005 and who embezzled R$ 3.6 billion.
In Brazil, the representatives of FraudNet are attorney Joao Accioly, of the Sobrosa & Accioly law firm in Rio de Janeiro; Antenor Madruga, Feldens Madruga law firm in Brasilia; and Henrique Forssell, of law firm Krikor Kaysserlian Duarte e Forssell Advogados Associados, of Sao Paulo.
The last Brazilian to be invited to join FraudNet, Accioly says that the cost to hire the services of professionals in this network in cases of major frauds is on average US$ 5 million (approximately R$ 16.4 million).
The lawyer recognizes that victims often do not have sufficient resources to retain the services of members of FraudNet.
However, he notes that investment funds have appeared on the market that support efforts to recover assets, in exchange for a large slice of the pie in the event the case is successful. "The growth of 'litigation funding' [financing for filing of lawsuits] has made effective access to the courts possible to those who, in other times, would have been deprived by the same fraudsters of the resources necessary to defend themselves."
In describing his work, he said that he once learned of the existence of a document prepared by a fraudster that would supposedly be the "treasure map" for his clients.
He then conducted a study to determine which workplaces he had occupied in the last few years, and discovered that one of them contained a safe. He asked permission of the tenant at that time to examine the safe, and found the document.
The work often includes hiring investigators to secretly follow and watch people whose movements may reveal the locations where the misappropriated valuables are kept.
According to Accioly, when a fraudster enters a luxury car, a yacht or a mansion, he may be indicating the path to the success of FraudNet.