Investigators in Brazil raided a ring of powerful politicians and businessmen in what unfolded into one of the biggest anti-graft operations ever. The network is suspected of having moved over $1 billion (€850M) through offshore accounts in 52 countries.
One prosecutor described the information on politicians and major companies exposed by the operation as “explosive”.
The mega-raid on Thursday came after a plea-bargain testimony by two money changers in custody who revealed a multi-country web of some 3,000 offshore companies in 52 countries with a turnover of $1.6 billion. The system is called “Bank Drop”.
The two men known as the “cream” of money changers were arrested in 2017 Uruguay and extradited to Brazil. Vinicius Claret and Claudio Barbosa were found guilty of having moved illegal money for former Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral. Cabral was accused of stealing over $100 million from the state’s coffers and is serving a 100-year sentence over several corruption charges.
The ongoing investigation is one of the biggest anti-graft efforts in the world. It started with a single arrest of a money changer in 2014, part of corruption probe known as the ‘Lava Jato’ (Car Wash) investigation.
“This sting opens the door on an unknown universe,” revealed prosecutor Rodrigo Timoteo. “We have pulled back the first layer, but there are many more.”
Arrest warrants were issued for 53 people, most of them involved in black-market money changing, including six from neighbouring Paraguay and Uruguay. Two of those arrested on Thursday, identified by prosecutors as Raul Pegazzano and Francisco Munoz, had been accused in the past of carrying out illicit operations for JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker.
A statement issued by JBS SA said that the company is collaborating with the prosecutors and that it has given detailed information in connection with Pegazzano and Munoz.
Prosecution asked for a court order to confiscate $2.13 billion (€1.8B) in cash and goods from the laundering ring. Half of the figure will go to compensate government for money moved illegally over two decades and the other half to pay for fines.
Sources: Reuters, MercoPress, TeleSUR