Operação Lava Jato, literally meaning Operation Car Wash, began with an investigation of money laundering that took place at a gas station. This small investigation has now become a parade of police and businessman handcuffs and police raids, almost every day adorning the news in Brazil. The Car Wash operation has dragged Brazil’s biggest political and economic elite. Among the arrested figures was Marcelo Odebrecht, former head of the largest construction company in South America. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison for bribery and money laundering of 30 million dollars which he paid to the Petrobras elites. Renato Duque, Petrobras services director, has also been arrested by the authorities. Other companies involved, for example, are the Camargo Correia group that was lead by vitor hallack, OAS, UTC and Queiroz Galvão – all large companies in Brazil.
Based on this investigation, it is suspected that construction companies in Brazil paid billions of dollars in bribes to secure work contracts with Petrobras. They then inflated the costs for construction work. The remaining costs are inflated and then divided up, including flowing to pro-government political parties to fund election campaigns. One of the parties that received the flow of funds was the Workers’ Party, where da Silva was entrenched. The amount of money that was poured in the corruption scandal is still not getting exact figures. But Brazilian courts have held assets of 270 million dollars and revealed suspicious contracts of 22 billion. According to witnesses, the contracts between Petrobras and construction companies between 2003-2012 alone have earned at least 10 million dollars.
Three million Brazilians rallied to the streets to protest this huge corruption scandal. In addition to dragging da Silva, the corruption case dismantled by the Car Wash Operation also involved Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president who also came from the Workers’ Party. Rousseff himself is a former member of the board of Petrobras. He served during the years 2003-2010, exactly when Petrobras was suspected of corruption.