Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado has informed Judge Sebastián Casanello that since 2017 Brazilian courts have "stonewalled" every attempt to obtain information concerning the local chapter of the so-called 'Operação Lava Jato' ("Operation Car Wash”) corruption scandal.
Delgado, responding to a request from Casanello, said that Brazil’s omission to provide Argentina with information regarding corrupt practices at the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht “leaves us in a fog when it comes to knowing whether or not any evidence capable of having a favourable impact in this case in fact exists in the neighbouring country.”
The prosecutor also manifested his “worries as to the results of the investigations linked to the trial known as Lava Jato in the Federal Republic of Brazil.”
“Since the file started, the prosecutor’s office has concentrated on trying to learn what elements of proof linked to the Argentine case Brazil had got,” explained Delgado.
“We did all we could. Since late 2017 we have carried out the proper course of proceedings for due diligence 23 times, all fruitless. We all asked for the obvious – to know what Brazil had got but currently things seem to be more complicated,” he added.
Launched in 2014, the Lava Jato investigation put some of the biggest names in politics and business behind bars. Prosecutors blew the lid off a sprawling tangle of corruption reaching the highest levels of government and industry in Brazil, with tentacles stretching across Latin America and into Africa.
Using aggressive plea-bargain tactics to get suspects to rat out their superiors, a specialist task force uncovered how politicians systematically conspired with executives at companies such as Odebrecht and Brazilian oil giant to inflate government contracts and pocket the proceeds for themselves and their parties.
Investigators said in 2021 that their probes had led to almost 300 arrests, more than 250 convictions and the return of more than US$800 million lost to corruption.
The lead Lava Jato taskforce, however, was quietly closed in February after falling into scandal itself.
Delgado informed Casanello this week that the Brazilian company Novonor SA, the successor of Odebrecht, had “complained to the Brazilian authorities that Argentina is not complying with its commitments not to incriminate as a condition for compliance with the requests for passive cooperation.”
According to the Brazilian legislation outlining conditions “whistleblowers,” international collaboration is available in a context of protection against incrimination but these norms are not totally compatible with the Argentine.
Given that scenario – added Delgado – “they asked the authorities of that country to suspend international collaboration.”
The future of the Odebrecht case in Argentina has thus seemed to enter into a cone of silence since, according to Delgado “the prosecutor’s office has had no knowledge of any concrete element susceptible of being considered pertinent and useful” for the local investigation.
“We have not succeeded in having any frank formal conversations with anybody from the Prosecutor’s Office in Brazil which could give us any concrete narrative as to the state of things in that country,” he concluded.