Brazil: Corruption, Bribery and Facilitation Payments

A History with Corruption

Brazil struggles with corruption, as it poses an impediment to economic development, social equality, and justice. In 2014, Operation Carwash (or Operação Lava Jato, in Portuguese) exposed one of the biggest corruption scandals in history, which involved businesses and politicians from several countries. This has inspired an anti-corruption effort by the investigative forces, as well as popular sentiment in favor of justice.

However, corruption is a historic institutional problem in Brazil, and despite of these efforts, 54% of Brazilians expressed thoughts that corruption increased between 2018 and 2019 (Transparency 2019). At the same time, according to the Global Corruption Barometer 2019, 11% of Brazilian public service users claimed to have paid a bribe in the previous 12 months. This reflects the importance of the fight against corruption in Brazil, as there is still much progress to be made in the country.

Synonyms of facilitation payments in Brazil

A very important element in the fight against corruption are facilitation payments. And this is no exception in Brazil. Facilitation payments can occur in many different circumstances and can be known by different names. This makes it a problem that can be hard to trace unless it is reported, as we encourage at FAFPI.

There are many synonyms for small bribes or facilitation payments in Brazil. These names might even prevent the person being requested a sum to identify them at the time for their true character. For example, a government official can ask for money for a small coffee (cafézinho, in Portuguese). Otherwise, he/she can ask for a small beer (cervejinha, in Portuguese). In Portuguese, this sum is characterized as a suborno or propina (bribery or facilitation payment). And just like in many other countries, this is illegal in Brazil.

Legality of facilitation payments in Brazil

Facilitation payments are illegal and subject to penalties regarding Articles 317 and 333 of the Brazilian Penal Code, which refer to crimes of passive and active corruption. Passive corruption refers to the deliberate action of an official
who directly or indirectly receives requests for advantages of any kind. This can be for himself, or someone else. However, it can also be the promise of an advantage. The official can also be requested to act or refrain from acting in his duty.  On the other hand, active corruption refers to the one who pays the bribe or facilitation payment.

The official who receives a facilitation payment or bribe is also guilty of passive bribery. But facilitation payments can take other forms, such as gifts. The Brazilian penal code also usually forbids gifts, personal loans or granting other advantages. These are considered bribes in case these offerings are connected to facilitating access or service to government structures. However, gifts under the value of 100 BRL are legal within specific contexts of courtesy, propaganda, or commemorative dates.

Facilitation payments need to be eradicated, as they are a clear sign of corruption. They can leave space for bigger crimes, such as security threats and extortions. And such as the case of Brazil, even though they are illegal, they still occur frequently. This urges initiatives to fight them, which is the reason why FAFPI was developed. Join us at FAFPI and help us put a dent in corruption.

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1 thought on “Brazil: Corruption, Bribery and Facilitation Payments”

  1. It is mandatory identifying and knowing how to act in these cases. There are silent crimes against the low income counties, this is one of them. The information should be disseminated. Good job!

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