Operation Car Wash: how did we get here?

. Jun 11, 2019
judge sergio moro Justice Minister Sergio Moro

Brazil’s Operation Car Wash is one of the world’s largest-ever corruption investigations, in which the Federal Police uncovered a huge web of kickbacks involving state-owned companies, major construction firms, and high-ranking politicians. In progress for over five years, the operation has borne dozens upon dozens of different phases, branching out into several major cities across the country.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lauded as heroic by some, derided as biased and unethical by others, we have gone through the history of this truly historic investigation, which has time and time again made huge <a href="">impacts</a> on the Brazilian political discourse.</span></p> <table class="widefat sliders-list"> <tbody> <tr class="slider-row"> <td> <div id="slider-pro-1" class="slider-pro sp-no-js" style="width: 500px; height: 300px;"> <div class="sp-slides"> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash beginning" title="operation car wash beginning" /> <div class="sp-caption"><b>THE BEGINNINGS</b> <br>The Federal Police launched Operation Car Wash on March 17, 2014. The case began with accusations from an owner of a gas station in Brasilia, who claimed that an attempt had been made to launder money through his business. The investigation uncovered a large scheme to launder public money, which involved executives from state-owned oil giant Petrobras and several major construction companies.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash yousseff" title="operation car wash yousseff" /> <div class="sp-caption"><b>THE BREAK</b><br> The case was blown open when investigators found an email from dollar exchanger Alberto Youssef, in which he discussed a Range Rover car bought for Petrobras' supplies director, Paulo Roberto Costa. Mr. Youssef, indicted on a number of money laundering charges already, flipped and turned state's witness. As he was born in the state of Paraná, the Car Wash case was overseen by courts in Curitiba, presided over by Federal Judge Sergio Moro. </div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash petrobras" title="operation car wash petrobras" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE SCHEME</B><br> What they found was as follows: Petrobras received bribes from construction companies in exchange for public contracts. The contracts were overpriced, meaning the surplus could be passed on to a wide array of politicians and government officials by way of illegal dollar exchangers.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash odebrecht" title="operation car wash odebrecht" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE FIRMS </B><br>Brazil's major construction companies had formed a cartel, in which they chose who would receive certain Petrobras contracts and rigged prices. Among the members were Odebrecht, OAS, Andrade Gutiérrez, Camargo Corrêa, and others. Petrobras executives in on the scheme made sure that only those companies from the cartel would receive contracts from the state-owned company.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash eduardo cunha" title="operation car wash eduardo cunha" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE POLITICIANS </B><br>The entire scheme was backed up and maintained by various powerful politicians, who were responsible for appointing Petrobras executives. Hailing from a wide range of parties, these politicians used kickbacks to finance political campaigns, gathering between 1 and 5 percent of the Petrobras contracts.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash jose dirceu" title="operation car wash jose dirceu" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE ARRESTS<br> </B>One of the defining elements of Operation Car Wash was that it led to the arrests of important politicians and high-ranking businessmen, which was previously unheard of in Brazil. Among the biggest names to face jail were former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, ex-cabinet ministers José Dirceu and Antonio Palocci, former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, and the president of Odebrecht, Marcelo Odebrecht.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="operation car wash odebrecht" title="operation car wash odebrecht" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE PLEA BARGAINS<br></B> Much of the operation was based on obtaining state's evidence from defendants. Key figures such as Marcelo Odebrecht were convinced to turn informants in exchange for reduced sentences.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="lula" title="lula" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE FORMER PRESIDENT<br></B> In an offshoot from Operation Car Wash, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was by far the most high-profile figure to be sent to jail since the beginning of the operation. He was accused of having received a beachfront apartment from construction company OAS. He was originally sentenced to 9 years and 6 months in jail, which has since been reduced to 8 years and 10 months.</div> </div> <div class="sp-slide"> <img class="sp-image" src="" alt="judge sergio moro operation car wash" title="judge sergio moro operation car wash" /> <div class="sp-caption"><B>THE JUDGE<br></B> The face of Operation Car Wash was Sergio Moro, the presiding judge in Curitiba. He became hailed by some as something of a national hero, a Brazilian crusader against corruption. However, as shown by recent leaks by The Intercept, he was colluding with prosecutors in the case to convict Lula. At the end of 2018, he accepted an invitation from President Jair Bolsonaro to become the Minister of Justice and Public Security.</div> </div> </div> </div></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">

Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall. Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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