- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

RIO DE JANEIRO — A leading American consulting company is under investigation in Brazil on suspicion that it intercepted e-mails and used wiretaps and other illegal methods to monitor people who now hold Cabinet positions in the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Kroll Associates Inc. also bribed government and police officials to obtain confidential information, according to authorities investigating an industrial espionage scandal, which also involves U.S. and Italian multinational companies.

Kroll’s offices in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were raided in October by Federal Police searching for evidence that the world’s biggest private intelligence firm had used illegal monitoring methods.

The purported victims include Cassio Casseb, a former president of Banco do Brasil, and Luiz Gushiken, who serves as minister of government communications.

Kroll, founded in New York in 1972, describes itself on its Web site as ‘the world’s leading risk consulting company,’ with offices in more than 60 cities in the United States and abroad.

It boasts that it can ‘scrutinize accounting practices and financial documents; gather and filter electronic evidence for attorneys; recover lost or damaged data from computers and servers; conduct in-depth investigations; screen domestic and foreign-born job candidates; protect individuals and enhance security systems and procedures.’

It is standard practice in some large corporations to have Kroll conduct background checks on candidates for top positions. The company also is reported to have been hired by governments to track down public funds stolen by the likes of Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, all of whom have been ousted.

According to the Federal Police, confiscated Kroll documents contain records of payments to officers of state-run Brazilian savings and loan institutions and the Sao Paulo city police that are thought to represent bribes, usually $100 to $200.

Government prosecutors also cite witnesses who say they acted as intermediaries for Kroll’s undercover efforts to obtain account numbers, banking codes and other secret information.

Spokesmen for Kroll complain that the government is violating judicial procedure by disclosing evidence prior to a trial and that much of the information the company is accused of stealing is publicly available on the Internet.

Kroll was hired by owners of Brazil’s telecommunications firm, Brazil Telecom, to investigate suspected insider trading by business executives and government officials during a takeover bid by the Italian communications giant, Telecom Italia.

It was clearly a major operation involving top-level officers of Kroll’s London and New York headquarters. The head of Kroll’s Milan, Italy, office also came to Rio de Janeiro to supervise the investigation, according to journalists who say they met with him.

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