Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli is unconvinced.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has announced the ending of the massive corruption investigation that became known as Operation Car Wash.
Since it was started six years ago, Operation Car Wash has led to some of Brazil’s biggest political and business figures being jailed. But President Bolsonaro said he was ending the investigation as there is “no more corruption in the government”; although his comments were met with ridicule in some quarters.
Operation Car Wash saw many prominent figures arrested as the state gradually uncovered a huge corruption scheme in which politicians and business executives took billions of dollars from the state-run oil company Petrobras. A series of confessions - which secured lenient sentences for some suspects - led to a number of political figures being shown to have taken huge bribes from construction company Odebrecht in exchange for lucrative public contracts.
The success of Operation Car Wash made it popular in Brazil, as many people had become tired of constant corruption. But the investigation itself became controversial, with some accusing it of being overly aggressive and undermining the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. There were also accusations that investigators worked to prevent former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva making a comeback in the 2018 presidential election.
Considering the huge scale of the wrongdoing exposed by Operation Car Wash, President Bolsonaro’s claims that he has ended it due to there not being any more corruption in government are hard to believe.
It should be remembered that the criminal probe into allegations of bribery, which has been ongoing for over six years, has implicated tens of companies and hundreds of individuals, including many key politicians and members of the business elite. The suggestion that wrongdoing on this scale has now disappeared appears incredible.