Explaining Brazil #149: The Brazilian Epstein?

One of Brazil's biggest business success stories may have covered a child sexual abuse ring

Few people embodied the story of the Brazilian self-made man better than Samuel Klein. Born into a Jewish family in Poland in 1923, Mr. Klein lived through the Nazi occupation of his country. He was sent to a concentration camp at the age of 19 and his mother and five siblings were killed in Treblinka. He emigrated to Brazil in the 1950s and settled in São Caetano do Sul, a city in Greater São Paulo. In his new home, he sold products door to door by horse and cart. By 1957, he opened the first store of what would become one of Brazil’s biggest retail chains: Casas Bahia.

Long before political scientists began studying the importance of the lower-middle class to Brazil’s economic development, Mr. Klein put all of his efforts into catering for that exact demographic, offering microcredit to his customers which became a hallmark of Casas Bahia’s business model.

But, as new allegations suggest, behind Samuel Klein’s good name lay an exploitative sexual predator, in a case with eerie parallels to that of notorious American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

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  • Natália Viana is a co-founder and director executive of Agência Pública, a non-profit investigative journalism organization focused on human rights abuses.

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