The will to continue the fight against institutional corruption in Brazil may be waning. From the perspective of The Man From FCPA, it appears that it is the beginning of the end for the seismic change which has come over the country starting with Operation Car Wash. Earlier this month, the Brazilian Federal Police announced they were shutting down the anti-corruption task force which has been at the center of Brazil’s fight against bribery and corruption. In a statement, they said, the group that led the fight would be merged into the Federal Police’s current anticorruption division to more effectively “fight against corruption and money laundering and facilitate the exchange of information.” Of course, that is just bureaucrat-ese for “we are reigning you in.”
Reports note that the task force itself “warned the move could throttle investigations that have exposed systemic corruption among the country’s political and business elites” and called the move a “clear setback” for their ongoing Car Wash and related investigations. Several factors led to the effectiveness of the task force before this move. One was its physical location away from the capital or other large city. A second and perhaps more important factor in its success was the “remarkable degree of autonomy” with which the task force operated allowing it to investigate both high-profile businesses and politicians in the country.
The country’s president, Michel Temer, who is now under indictment for corruption, would not say whether he was behind the move or even if he was aware the change was in the works.The most straight-forward way to derail a smoothly functioning unit, however, is to place it within a larger organization where it must fight for time, resources, and money, not to mention bureaucratic oversight. For those who desire to see more openness and less corruption, this move cannot signal anything positive.