Transparency International awarded its annual anti-corruption prize to Brazil's Operacao Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), a wide-ranging corruption investigation into how officials overcharged for contracts on public procurement projects in order to finance political campaigns. State prosecutors began the probe in March 2014 and for nearly three years have meticulously indicted high-ranking politicians and businesspeople, shaking the Brazilian political and economic establishment to its foundation (NotiSur, Aug. 14, 2015).
Some analysts credit the scandal with bringing down Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), the former Brazilian president who was impeached last year, ending the 13-year rule of Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party, PT) (NotiSur, April 29, 2016, June 24, 2016, Sept. 30, 2016). Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), the former president and PT political champion, was also ensnared by the probe (NotiSur, Jan. 16, 2004, Jan. 9, 2009, Sept. 30, 2016). Analysts link the scandal to Brazil's ongoing recession, as bribery allegations have tainted leading multinational construction companies based in Brazil, as well as the state-owned oil giant Petrobras.
Transparency International, a Berlin-based international NGO, gave the award to the team of roughly two dozen prosecutors and lawyers working out of Curitiba, Brasilia, and Rio de Janeiro for the Ministerio Publico (Prosecutor's Office) and the Procurador-Geral da Republica (attorney general). The award committee cited the team's conviction rate, noting more than 240 criminal charges and 118 convictions totaling 1,256 years of jail time. Moreover, the prosecutors were lauded for their lobbying efforts to encourage an anti-corruption bill in the Brazilian Congress. A watered-down version of their proposed legislation was passed on Nov. 30.
"Billions of dollars have been lost to corruption in Brazil, and Brazilians have had enough of the corruption that is ravaging their country," said Mercedes de Freitas, chair of Transparency International's Anti-Corruption Award Committee. "The Car Wash Task Force is doing great work in that ensuring the corrupt, no matter how powerful they are, are held to account and that justice is served. We are pleased to award the Brazilian prosecutors behind the Car Wash Task Force with the 2016 Anti-Corruption Award for their relentless efforts to end endemic corruption in Brazil."
Meanwhile, the investigation continues apace and last year went beyond Brazil's borders,...