What is Brazil’s ‘Operation Car Wash’?

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What is Brazil’s ‘Operation Car Wash’?

Is Operation Car Wash the world’s biggest corruption scandal? By Vanessa Baird


Sergio Moro as Superman - a popular inflatable doll.

Why the name?

Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) began in March 2014. It was a small investigation into a gas service station in Brasilia, used for laundering money. Police found that black-market money dealers were working for a senior executive in Petrobras, the state oil company. The company overpaid contractors for a reduction of up to five per cent on business deals. They put the money in a secret account.

How much money is involved?

Petrobras said it paid $2.1 billion in bribes. But the value of the corruption with many big companies will be much more.

So who is involved?

There’s Odebrecht, a big construction firm used by Petrobras. It said it spent at least $3.3 billion to bribe political parties in Brazil. It did the same in other countries – Peru, Chile, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela. Marcelo Odebrecht was the CEO and they gave him 19 years in prison. The Brazilian state development bank (BNDES) is also involved.

Any other big companies?

There’s OAS, another large construction company, and JBS, the world’s biggest meat packer. Joesley Batista is the co-owner and he said he made secret payments to big Brazilian parties and individuals.

How many politicians are involved?

They have convicted nearly 100 politicians and officials so far. Car Wash investigators are talking to four past presidents and at least 71 members of parliament. At the same time, the Supreme Federal Court is investigating 238 members of both houses of parliament for corruption.

How many members of parliament are there?


It sounds crazy! Are you sure the Car Wash isn’t out of control?

Many politicians think so, but that is not surprising. The Workers’ Party is certain Car Wash is against them. Politicians on all sides complain about the investigators’ methods, some of which are possibly not legal and are against human rights. Many lawyers agree.

How’s that?

The investigators (police and judges) make very dramatic arrests, and tell the media before the arrests. They keep suspects for a long time and until they confess. People compare them to the Spanish Inquisition.

So how do they do it?

They are popular with the public – unlike the politicians! Many of them are young and they seem like heroes. They have good relations with the media, especially the conservative O Globo group, and US-educated Moro is a kind of star. Supporters say that the Car Wash judges need special powers with so much corruption by so many powerful people.

Where will it all end?

Impossible to say.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2017/10/01/operation-car-wash

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).