It was on Wednesday, 22nd November 2017 that, sitting over the supper table with the Cooper family, and enjoying the Chinese take-away that Dawnie and Andrew had provided, the talk turned to Brazil and corruption. I was involved enough to say that in all the time I had been in Brazil where bribery was and no doubt still is a way of life, I had never bribed or been bribed. Pat’s response to this was, albeit humorously, ‘You had people to do this for you.’ A fair point when Organisations were involved but I was talking on the personal level. And present the following to support my case.

The time was 1967/68 and I am able to draw on extracts from ‘A walk down Fortune Street,’  so as not to rely on memory recall which would be a precarious matter at the best of times. Surprisingly, at my age, with my short term memory somewhat erratic I have a very clear memory of long term events. But, not to strain credulity, the following was all recorded at the time.

The background of the episodes was that I was living alone in rented accommodation in Sao Paulo while Ursula and the family were living in Germany and England. We were half inclined to pull out of Brazil. There had been a military coup a couple of years previously and the country was currently going through a severe economic downturn. I had taken voluntary redundancy from my job as Manager at Perkins Engines to ensure myself of the generous terms before the Government ended these. Then I had rented out our large three storey house on Volta Redonda to an English couple and set myself a target of arranging another job by February the following year or sending  our possessions back by ship and flying back to the UK. At that time both options were fraught with difficulties. To be able to leave Brazil I would have to have a clearance from the Finance Ministry that my Income Tax was cleared, a certificate from the Police Authorities that I  had no criminal record, and a clearance from the Transport Ministry that Company car I had received with my severance package had been properly registered in my name..

These were all matters with the Public Sector and provided rich pickings for the corrupt services that ran them. The problem was not complicated. Middlemen called ‘Despachantes. operated as an interface between the public and the public servants operating the great bureaucracies. One just paid the despachante the price asked for each service and hoped you had picked one who could perform, then  after an indeterminable wait you got your certificate, the despachante paid the bribe and kept what was left of the money you paid him.

‘January 11th was a hot day, hotter than yesterday, and I to Wilson & Sons to arrange my passage; everything, I know only too well, is going to be difficult. The Income Tax clearance is like a Kafkean nightmare, and meant to be so, unless done through paying intermediaries and the old payola flows to the functionarios. Then the baggage I shall have to ship unaccompanied by sea, always a complicated and costly job. A quote I had from Fink was CR$400,000 for three cases and a trunk on board a ship destined for the UK. Freight charges and UK expenses on top of this. Then there is the problem of getting the DKW car officially registered in my name before I can sell it. In short, when one is unattached to a Company or Organisation in Brazil, one has a hard time of it unless paying the despachantes and this I was determined not to do.

On 17th January 1967 I drove to town to speak to Jim Hill of Wilson & Sons to change my air passage to the UK to a return by ship as this would be cheaper and give me more time to manoeuvre. Then I drove out to the ABC district to see about my Income Tax clearance for an exit visa and the transfer documents for the car, and was prepared for the bitter uphill battle with the stultifying  bureaucrats whose limitations I know too well.. At Santo Andre, a distance of 28 kilometres, I had to submit a request for the Chief Local Tax Collector to give me a tax clearance without which I cannot get an Exit Visa and, without an Exit Visa, of course, I cannot leave Brazil. I was told there that the required forms were not in stock because the local printer had forgotten to print them and none of the local stationers held stocks. I walked around the town to verify this and then went to the printer. and asked him to run a batch, there and then. He thought this was quite amusing and we had quite a chat during which he told me that he was half English but spoke not a word of the language. He said he thought this was a reason (he being part English) was why, amongst his Brazilian colleagues, he seemed to be the only one who was keen on punctuality. He promised to run a batch. I went back to the Tax Office and spoke with a different person who told me I could use the old type form and so I bought two of these  and after acquainting myself  with all the steps that would be necessary I went back to my lodgings and typed out the information on the forms. In the evening I called round to an ex-colleague, Jack Miles to ask him to be my guarantor on the declaration. Jack agreed without hesitation as he will be leaving Brazil and returning to the UK in a few months time.

The following day I drove to Sao Bernardo about the car documents. The Chief of Transit said the engine had been changed – he could tell by the numbering on the block – therefore the transfer could not be made without sundry other information. My old employer Perkins was in a battle for survival at this time of the Economic down-turn and all they could do was to allow the Company Transport supervisor to help out but he was not available so I returned to the Transit Office and tried to argue with the Transport Chief which made him resentful and awkward. He said he would clear the papers but make an observation to the effect that he wasn’t responsible for the lack of information about the engine change and this might make it difficult for me to sell. After my error  in pressing my point too strongly I tried to back down but he said he had to leave, gave the papers to a clerk, and disappeared..

While I was in Sao Bernardo I took my Tax papers to have the signature witnessed  at the Forum and then back to Santo Andre where the woman clerk advised me that it had all been done on the wrong form. Reminding her that I had cleared this matter yesterday , I got the reply that this form I had used, which had been supplied by her own office, was a third type, which the Chief would on no account accep. She said she would type the new form for me if I could get one. This was the first offer of a little human help in all the labyrinthine maze of bureaucracy to date and I suspect that the people here yesterday had been aware of the form they had sold me would not be acceptable. Over the road, the half-English printer had redeemed his omission by printing the new forms and I took these to the Income Tax office lady clerk,  dona Elida, who did the necessary typing for me. Of course it had to be witnessed again as well as being signed By Jack.

I fairly tore back to Sao Bernardo and telephoned Perkins. Jack was in – a miracle – but about to leave – normal. He came round to the Edelweiss where I was waiting, the place was being swabbed out and there was no service. I bought a bar of chocolate for each of us and he signed the form on the zinc-topped counter; I gave him the old form with his signature on, then a dash through heavy rain to the car and round to the Forum once again where the signature was witnessed a second time and, with twenty minutes to spare before the Income Tax office closed at 1630 hrs. I drove fast through the rain to Santo Andre. A man there did not want to accept the form but I persisted and eventually saw the Chefe who cleared them while we had an amicable chat in his office.

With the Tax form cleared at local level  I was round at the Central Tax Office in Sao Paulo (Ministerio de Fazenda to give its official title) at the opening time of 1230 hrs. on 23rd January to begin the uphill struggle to get Brazilian officialdom to give me a piece of paper to say that there were no tax claims against me for 1963 and 1964; the years I had made my returns in a Sao Paulo Tax Office. With this paper the Santo Andre Tax Office could start their part in giving me a clearance for the years 1965, 1966 and 1967. I had to do it the Brazilian way, to wheedle and wait, smile and wait, go from department to department and wait. Some people were helpful, some indifferent; all of them working within the structure  of a rigid bureaucracy and individual whim. I was told at more than one of the counters that to get it through the same day was not possible. Maybe it was my English accented Portuguese that helped me, or my foreignness, or my repeating everywhere that I was leaving next Monday,  but I got what I wanted and in just over three hours, which is marvellous by Brazilian standards.

It was too late to take the document back to Santo Andre and I did not want to go back to my lodgings, so once again I went to a cinema along the Avenida Santo Amaro and saw a Wild West film. Luckily I had been asked to dinner at the Miles because my noble landlady’s effort for the evening meal was a bowl of chicken soup. A splendid meal awaited me at the Miles’s as Elsie is a first class cook. Afterwards I drove back in the rain; it has been raining almost everyday for over a week now. Time is running out for the final parting of the ways.

On the 25th January I drove to Sao Bernardo to find that through having briefed Emilio, the Perkins Transport Supervisor of my plight the transfer documents for the car were finally approved and I picked them up at the Transit Office. From there to Santo Andre where, after a two and a half hour wait at the Tax Office I obtained the final Income Tax clearance. I am achieving miracles left and right in all that contributes towards returning to England;  on the other  hand it seems destined that all my efforts to stay on in Brazil are subtly frustrated. With the clearances all approved – the Police clearance was obtained through my booking a sea passage – the way is now clear for me to get the Monday boat, sailing from Santos and, as I drove back to the lodgings, I was almost completely resigned to my departure.

Ever since taking my redundancy in October 1967 I had had plenty of interviews for jobs but in today’s economic crisis no employer is in a hurry to take on senior staff. I was on the short list for two vacancies and during all the time I was chasing my clearance papers I was in communication with these two Companies.

On Friday, 26th January, I was at the Santos Dumont airport to have the car washed prior to turning it over to the buyer I had found. My boat sailed on Monday,  29th January. Not wishing to wait outside, I went into the building and phoned  the two Companies. The telephone structure in Brazil was at that time in its infancy and after half an hour I had not been able to get through to either. Admitting defeat I went out to get the car; the boys had not yet finished so, sooner than stand around I went back into the building and continued with my dialling. After ten minutes I got through to Cyanamid and asked for the General Manager, Mr Minuchi; he was not in so I asked for Sr Humberto. ‘Yes,’ he said, in his unattached sort of way, ‘you should have a medical  examination with our doctor, and if that is alright, you can start on the first of February.’

There is a lot to write about unwinding all the work done to leave Brazil, reverse it and bring the family back again. Meeting the boat that brought them in Santos and settling back again in Sao Paulo for a further six years, and this is all recorded in, ‘A walk down Fortune Street.’ But to revert to the original purpose of this Blog I should end it by recording an episode that occurred in April 1968 when we were all together again.

‘My Income Tax returns needed to be updated after the issuing of the clearances previous described and after making enquiries I left the Cyanamid factory at 1700 hrs. and headed for Sao Bernardo do Campo, arriving at the Income Tax Office at 1750 hrs to deposit my Tax Return. I had been here earlier for advice and been given all details plus the fact that the Tax Return had to be in duplicate. So I was in no mood to be told by the rather complacent counter clerk  that he could not accept them because there was no inscription number on them; this would have to be done at the Santo Andre Office. This was on the last day for the Returns to be lodged and if done later would incur a fine and goodness knows what further complication. It was too late for me to go over to Santo Andre, so I tried to reason with the man but he remained implacable. At this, I told him that I was determined to submit the Returns that day and was prepared to stay until they were accepted. He and another funcionario were about to lock up the office and leave and were evidently aghast at the audacity I showed. I sat down, got out my newspaper and began to read. They talked to me in strange tones and when they saw I was adamant, they went into a corner and held a whispered consultation.

One of them approached me and said that unless I left immediately they would call the police. I waved him to the telephone. After he had made the call, we three waited in silence until they must have considered their action too hasty and made a call to the Delegado at Santo Andre for instructions.. He said I should make up a petition in duplicate, requesting that my declaration be accepted without the Inscription number. I was finishing this petition in duplicate, when the police arrived in a car and entered the Office drawing with them a few curious by-standers. Names and addresses were taken and I took the opportunity of laying a counter-charge against the two funcionarios, for obstructing me from carrying out my lawful obligations;   to their indignation and great discomfiture. The Delegado’s instructions were that I should proceed to Santo Andre, as should the two funcionarios. They refused to give me a lift in their car after the Police had left, believing me to be without a vehicle.

At the Santo Andre Tax Office, a place which was familiar to me, I was shown into the Delegado’s Gabinete and found him to be an interesting man, keen on his job and liking to talk about it. We had a pleasant chat while another funcionario got my receipt ready. I was loud in my praise of the Delegado and his enlightened approach, to help where he was able to, all of which he took in his stride as a cultured man should. With the receipt, the object of my intransigence, in my pocket, I shook hands with the Delegado and stepped out into the now darkened streets. I had been here last on the 25th January to collect my Income Tax clearance prior to my expected departure for England., and I hadn’t expected to be back so soon. Neither occasion could be said to have been easy.

My antagonistic funcionarios were on the pavement among a group of their colleagues having, no doubt, related to them the unheard of impudence of a foreign tax payer. Hopefully, I went up to the nearest one with my hand out and a make-up smile on my face but he spurned my hand and told me to go about  my business in no very a pleasant a manner. I told him that I had been politely and civilly received by his Chief who had helped me resolve the business in hand, which he could have suggested and, with a smile and a ‘goodnight,’ I left the surprised group. My last recollection was of the angry and indignant face of the man. Back at home I found  that the Julie and Cliffie were better (asthma) and were sleeping. Lein lein was already in bed so U and I had supper and an early night.’

27 NOVEMBER 2017