By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Federal prosecutors in Rio (RJ-MPF) have launched the Center for Combating Corruption, a special unit with greater powers to tackle civil and criminal malpractice. In operation since mid-June 2014, ten prosecutors have started investigating crimes such as embezzlement, peddling, bribery, breach of confidentiality and irregularity in the spending of public funds under the program.

Jose Dirceu, convicted of corruption in the mensalão case, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Lula’s former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, convicted of corruption in the mensalão case is granted work release, image recreation.

According to the prosecutor Sergio Pinel, who will coordinate investigations, the new center will strengthen and optimize the work done by existing forces.

“The great distinction to what it was before is that the prosecutor, who is now at the core, will be responsible for both civil and criminal investigations”, he explained.

According to an official statement, the prosecutors are already investigating 600 civil proceedings and 700 criminal cases. According to Pinel, the number of investigations is large, but represents a lower amount than those usually looked at by the RJ-MPF special teams.

“This will mean that a smaller amount of cases can be given better treatment, although the quantity remains too large, as there are many cases, many reports of misconduct and crimes committed by public servants.”

By classifying civil and criminal corruption on an equal level, Pinel and those at the RJ-MPF are sending a message that they are taking a strong line on the wrong doings of those in the public services. In an election year, such a statement of intent will be aimed at the Brazilian public who’s confidence in politics has been ruptured in the aftermath of the mensalão scandal and subsequent criticisms that the punishments for those involved did not go far enough.

Pinel said that the RJ-MPF had made tackling Corruption in Rio their core focus. This is a great concern in the city, where at the end of 2013 the National Victimization Survey, found the Military Police in Rio de Janeiro to be Brazil’s most corrupt police force in the country.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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