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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 23:01 GMT
Bingo scandal sees markets gyrate
A trader on the Bovespa
The fresh allegations are hurting investor confidence
A government corruption scandal has sent Brazil's markets on a wild ride.

Early on Friday Sao Paulo's Bovespa exchange was down 4%, taking the week's falls to 10%, while the real fell 1.8%.

The cause was evidence that a senior aide in the Workers Party (PT)had met a gambling boss from whom he took bribes after the PT's election in 2002.

But promises from President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of an in-depth inquiry calmed nerves, sending stocks back into positive territory, ending 1.8% higher.

The day's gyrations are partly the result of the long Carnival holiday weekend ahead, with investors trying to make sure any further allegations do not catch them out.

But observers said more falls could come if the promised inquiry fails to look genuine.

Uncertainty

The allegations have been hitting the PT and its leader, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in their most prized electoral asset: a clean reputation.

Waldomiro Diniz pictured on TV speaking to Carlos Ramos
Diniz is alleged to have taken bribes from a racketeer
As soon as the scandal broke a week earlier, the PT had taken action by firing Waldomiro Diniz from his job as aide to Lula's chief of staff, Jose Dirceu.

It is also now thinking of banning the gambling halls which play host to the "numbers game", a Brazilian form of street bingo based on animal names which is hugely lucrative for those who run it.

Carlos Ramos or "Carlinhos the Waterfall" - the man from whom Mr Diniz is accused of taking money for favours while head of the Rio de Janeiro state lottery - is thought to be a kingpin of the Rio numbers game.

But the new evidence published in weekly magazine Epoca, which broke the original story, could threaten Mr Dirceu's position too.

He is widely seen as the engine behind many of the party's reforms, and the possibility of his departure and the consequent uncertainty scared investors.

Lula's government is widely credited with stabilising Brazil's rickety economy, pulling it back into surplus, working to reform pensions and beginning to tackle deep-seated social problems.


SEE ALSO:
Brazil's president sacks adviser
14 Feb 04  |  Americas
Brazil strike hits Lula reforms
08 Jul 03  |  Business
Lula pushes Brazil reforms
01 May 03  |  Business
Lula makes plea for reform
18 Feb 03  |  Business


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