Since its early days, Operation Car Wash has drawn comparisons to Italy’s Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) investigation. Like its European predecessor, prosecutors hit the core of a deeply-corrupt political system that encompassed major parties and seemed entrenched in all levels of public administration. Both probes eroded the country’s levels of trust in institutions, culminating with the rise of a right-wing populist to the presidency: Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
But the two investigations share other characteristics. Firstly is the reliance on a close relationship with the press to gather popular support and corner the political establishment. In order to sustain such a close relationship—which earned then-Judge Sergio Moro comparisons to Superman—the operation relied on selective leaks.