By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Since the Lava Jato (Car Wash) task force was set up in Rio de Janeiro, seventeen months ago, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) has filed twenty-five criminal lawsuits against 134 people, according to the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
Former governor Sérgio Cabral, accused of being one of the masterminds of the operation in Rio has been in prison for the past year.
“The largest money-laundering scheme ever investigated in Rio de Janeiro was dismantled by the Lava Jato task force of the Attorney General’s Office in Rio de Janeiro,” said the MPF in a statement on Friday.
According to officials, in the almost year-and-a-half of investigations there were seventeen joint operations with the Federal Police, fifteen plea-bargaining agreements, 69 arrests, 34 people brought in for questioning and 211 search and seizure warrants fulfilled. More than R$450 million have already been retrieved and the MPF requests an additional R$2.3 billion to be paid in form of fines.
According to the MPF in addition to Cabral another thirty individuals were also charged and convicted of money laundering and corruption. “Together, the sentences exceed 377 years in prison,” said the MPF.
On Friday a group demonstrated outside the public jail in Benfica, northern part of the city, where Cabral has been jailed. With signs reading ‘Happy One-Year Incarceration, Sergio Cabral’, the group celebrated the former governor’s arrest in November of 2016 with cake and finger food.
The group also ‘welcomed’ Rio’s legislative president, Jorge Picciani, and representatives Paulo Melo and Edson Albertassi, who were arrested earlier this week accused of corruption, criminal association, money laundering and tax evasion.
Cabral was arrested on November 17th of last year, accused of receiving kickbacks from state construction works totaling R$220 million. Cabral is also accused of passive corruption and money laundering in bribes related to a Petrobras contract with construction giant Andrade Gutierrez.
In June of 2017, Cabral was sentenced to fourteen years and two months in prison for passive corruption and money laundering in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) graft. The former governor will also have to pay a fine of R$528,000 in what Judge Sergio Moro called ‘systematic bribe operations’.