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Prosecutors from 15 countries must act quickly to bring the corrupt to justice in Lava Jato scandal

Transparency International calls for prosecutors to set up a regional task force to coordinate investigations

Transparency International and its chapters in Latin America call on the prosecutors from the 15 countries involved in the Lava Jato corruption scandal, meeting in Brazil this week, to take strong steps to bring the guilty to justice.

The Lava Jato scandal involves a network of more than twenty corporations, including construction giant Odebrecht, that bribed public officials to win contracts in Latin America, Angola and Mozambique.

The meeting in Brasilia, convened by the Brazilian Prosecutor General, comes in the wake of a US$3.5 billion settlement reached between US, Brazilian and Swiss prosecutors and Odebrecht.

“The Brasilia meeting presents a tremendous opportunity to tackle grand corruption in a meaningful, global way. The prosecutors should use this opportunity to share experiences, strategies and information in order to improve their work. In each country people are demanding the same kind of results that prosecutors in Brazil have achieved,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

“Prosecutors should explore creating a joint investigative task force on a global scale, focussed on offshore schemes and money laundering. A more efficient and coordinated investigation is key to dismantling the corrupt systems that perpetuate poverty and inequality in Latin America and Africa,” said Ugaz.

Transparency International’s chapters in the Americas are making five key recommendations:

  • The national authorities, particularly prosecutors and the judiciary, should set up a regional task force of one or more joint investigative teams to ensure a coordinated and rapid response.
  • The prosecutors should commit to transparency in their procedures. Civil society should be allowed to monitor any cooperation agreements, including any leniency agreements made with companies that cooperate and plea bargains with individuals.
  • The Brasilia meeting should agree on effective ways to boost access to information in countries where it is difficult to monitor judicial procedures. People are entitled to know what happened and how the investigations are proceeding. A constructive communications policy should keep people informed without compromising the investigative process.
  • All agents or companies who allegedly facilitated or funded corruption schemes, such as the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and Brazil’s National Development Bank (BNDES), should be identified and sanctioned.
  • Lastly, the resources generated by fines and settlements should be used to fund corruption prevention programmes, social accountability and educational outreach, similar to the Siemens Integrity Initiative established by the German company after its corruption and bribery scandal.

Transparency International strongly supports the adoption of the ten measures against corruption presented by the Brazilian prosecutors to Congress but not yet approved. Transparency International encourages all the prosecutors to make a collective request to the Brazilian Congress to approve these measures, which are indispensable to avoid impunity and assure a positive outcome of these investigations.

The Odebrecht investigation exposed a financial network involving shell companies and several banks to funnel more than US$788 million dollars in bribes to corrupt government officials and political parties and their leaders in Angola, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Odebrecht’s Division of Structured Operations – called a “Department of Bribery” by the US Department of Justice – systematically undermined the integrity of government officials across Latin America and in Angola and Mozambique.

Transparency International chapters and partners in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela are monitoring the progress of investigations in their respective countries.

Editor's note: This press release was amended on 16 February 2017 to correct the number of countries sending representatives to the meeting in Brazil.


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Natalie Baharav
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