By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – On Friday the largest anti-corruption investigation ever conducted in Brazil, Lava Jato (Carwash) marks its third anniversary. Since 2014, 38 phases of the investigation have occurred.
There have been 746 searches and seizures conducted, 198 arrests made, 57 criminal charges filed against 260 persons and prosecutors have been able to recover R$10 billion of the graft money.
“At the present time, we have the diagnosis of corruption that has roots in our history and whose tentacles have embraced many public agencies. In the future, we see some obstacles that society can help us overcome if we want to move to a less corrupt country.”
“After three years, it is necessary that the population insist on initiatives (which will bring) political renewal and the reform of the political and judicial systems,” said Deltan Dallagnol, coordinator of the Lava Jato Task Force of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Paraná in a statement released on Friday morning.
Brazil’s biggest graft scandal, which started off with a couple of federal prosecutors in Curitiba looking into allegations of one executive possibly receiving money in exchange of contracts was far more extensive than anyone previously imagined.
Today more than thirty federal prosecutors and over 4,000 federal police officers are involved in the investigations. The latest plea-bargaining agreements by Odebrecht executives may reveal even greater involvement of Congressional representatives, and federal, state and local government officials.
One of the leading figures in the Lava Jato investigation has been Federal Judge Sergio Moro. Moro has taken the testimony of most of those charged in the scandal, albeit politicians with rights to be heard only by the Supreme Court Justices.
A symbol of fighting corruption to some, Moro has also become a reviled adversary to others, with his sentencing of important PT party members, like former PT treasurer Delúbio Soares. Last year, Former Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, sued Moro for ‘abuse of authority’.
The investigations have led to the arrest of politicians, CEOs and executives from some of Brazil’s largest and most powerful companies. Household names like former Chamber of Deputies President, Eduardo Cunha, former Chief of Staff, Jose Dirceu and former Rio de Janeiro governor, Sergio Cabral, remain in jail on charges of corruption and money laundering.
There are currently 23 persons in prison in relation to the scandal and 24 persons in house arrest. Judges have already handed down more than 1,300 years of jail time to those charged.
In these three years, the scandal became so widespread that mega corporations, such as Odebrecht, have been sued by foreign nations, as the corruption web spread to outside Brazil’s borders and illicit money was transferred to off-shore accounts.
The Lava Jato scandal also led to the downfall of one of Brazil’s most successful public companies, Petrobras, which in addition to facing an economic crisis in the petroleum sector, also saw its net worth and credibility plummet with news after news of former directors receiving millions from construction and logistic companies for contract benefits.