By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The federal police in Brazil continued to serve arrest and search and seize orders in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday morning, as part of an on-going investigation into the city’s public transportation system.
On Tuesday night a judge blocked more than R$520 million in bank accounts from bus transportation owners and Rio’s main transport federation.
“I determine the seizure of assets and properties of those investigated and of the legal entities linked to them,” wrote Judge Marcelo Bretas in his decision.
The investigation, dubbed Operação Ponto Final (Final Bus Stop Operation) is part of the larger Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation and involves former Rio governor Sergio Cabral.
Federal investigators say the million-dollar payment of bribes by bus companies and the Federation of Transport Companies of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Fetranspor) to government officials and representatives of entities responsible for overseeing Rio’s public transport system.
Over the years, according to investigators, corruption in the sector has led to higher tariffs and deterioration of the service. “It is very expensive, crowded and most with no air conditioning,” complains Ozeli Alves, who relies on public transportation on a daily basis to get to work. “It is hard on us who take the bus and train, it is always the user who ends up getting harmed,” concludes Alves.
On Monday federal agents served eleven arrest warrants and thirty search and seize orders, in their investigation of corrupt practices operating within the transportation sector in Rio, including Jacob Barata Filho the heir to one of the state’s largest transportation companies.
According to Marcelo Carpenter, one of Fetranspor’s lawyers, however, Judge Bretas’ decision may shut down the city’s bus system. “I believe that Judge Bretas was not alerted to the gravity of the decision. If it is carried out, it can cause the system to collapse,” said Carpenter according to government news agency, Agencia Brasil.