Head of Brazil's 'Car Wash' anti-graft task force quits with team's future in doubt


  • World
  • Wednesday, 02 Sep 2020

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The head of Brazil's top corruption-busting team of federal prosecutors will quit the task force that dismantled the country's biggest graft network and jailed a former president for taking bribes, the team announced on Tuesday.

Deltan Dallagnol's departure comes at a time when the so-called "Car Wash" investigation, which began in 2014, has come under increasing pressure to be disbanded. The country's prosecutor general must take a decision by Sept. 10.

Dallagnol, a 40-year-old lawyer, said in a video posted on social media that he was stepping down as coordinator of the task force for personal reasons, saying he would look after an ill daughter aged 22 months.

"This is a very difficult decision. But I am very sure that this is the right decision that I want to take as a parent," he said.

Dallagnol, who has faced criticism from politicians for his aggressive methods in fighting pervasive corruption in Brazil, will be transferred to the federal prosecution office in the southern city of Curitiba, where the Car Wash operation is based.

The prosecutor called on Brazilians to continue supporting the task force. He said the fight against corruption is under risk by "decisions made in Brasilia," an apparent reference to political interference.

Brazil's top public prosecutor, Augusto Aras, must decide by next week whether to extend the task force's mandate for another year, as skepticism grows about Bolsonaro's commitment to a campaign in which he promises to tackle corruption.

The right-wing leader took office last year amid popular anger at corruption under the former governments of the leftist Workers Party, but has since railed at investigations of alleged graft involving members of his own family.

With a raft of investigations on alleged corruption in the purchase of medical equipment to combat COVID-19, there are abundant signs that graft is thriving despite the years of prosecutions.

A senior member of the task force, requesting anonymity, told Reuters last week that there were 400 ongoing probes by federal prosecutors and police stemming from the Car Wash investigation.

Among the cases still open are investigations on contracts signed by state-controlled company Petrobras with several multinational firms, as well as deals by financial institutions and new probes of ship leasings, the source said.

Still in the pipeline are investigations of money laundering through art galleries and of politicians who are no longer in office and have lost their legal prerogatives, he said.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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