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Brazil's richest built illegal homes in nature reserves

Brazil’s richest built illegal homes in nature reserves.

Brazil’s richest built illegal homes in nature reservesAccording to a 2011 report by the Rio’s state environmental institute, INEAthe number of Brazilian millionaires spending weekends in homes built in violation of state and federal environmental rules on some of the most beautiful areas in Brazil grows.As the wealthy get richer from the fastest economic growth in the last two decades, the unlawful use of public land is increasing, especially of nature preserves.

Squatters have chosen to reside in the Cairucu, Juatinga and Tamoios conservation areas, in forests and on islands, with rivers, waterfalls and beaches where sea turtles nest. They use attorneys to dodge laws, lie to authorities on construction permit requests, illegally destroy preserved land and rivers and privatize beaches by hiring armed security guards to keep out visitors.

One such example is Antonio Claudio Resende’s house built on the Cavala Island, located in the Atlantic off the east coast of Brazil. Although it is a natural preserve, the founder of Latin America’s largest car-rental companybuilt a 1,752-square-meter mansion.The construction began in 2006, when he cleared the pristine jungle where wild bromeliad flowers grow to make way for his house - which is built partially underground and hidden by surrounding lush forest.Resendeonly had the right to occupy the land of the nature preserve, not to build a large home on it. He has been fighting civil and criminal charges for more than four years, while defying court orders to demolish the house and leave.

Heirs to Roberto Marinho, who created South America’s biggest media group, built a 1,300-square-meter mansion in part of the Atlantic coastal forest that by law is supposed to be untouched because of its ecology.Without permits, in 2008 the family built a modernist home that has actually won several architectural honors, including the 2010 Wallpaper Design Award.The Marinhos added a swimming pool on the public beach and cleared protected jungle to make room for a helipad. Two security guards armed with pistols patrol the land, shooing away anyone who tries to use the public beach.

On the other side of Paraty Bay, Icaro Fernandes, bought a 400,000-squaremeter piece of land in 2003.The property is in theJuatinga ecological preserve, which is protected because it’s home to the only tropical fjord in South America. The spot is flanked by mountains covered with virtually untouched forest where monkeys, anteaters and jaguars live.Fernandes constructed a two-story, 666-square-meter home on the beach, witha guesthouseand a housekeeper’s chalet that sit up a hill.Federal prosecutors sued Fernandes in November 2004 for not obtaining an environmental license to build and the court ordered him to stop construction but of course he didn’t.

Most millionaires register properties in the names of holding companies, allowing them to pay lower taxes and making it more difficult for the government to know who’s responsible for environmental crimes.

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