It may sound like a new form of car wash, but it is actually the largest corruption investigation that Brazil has ever seen, and it looks like threatening fallout in Portugal.
Operation Lava-Jato is currently investigating trips that Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva made to Portugal in 2013.
Ostensibly, the trips were made for Lula to “present the book of José Sócrates” – the same book that Sócrates’ childhood friend and co-defendant in Portugal’s labyrinthine Operation Marquês corruption investigation is accused of buying in bulk so as to make his old mate look good.
According to Expresso, Lula’s trips were paid for by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht – yet another piece in the Lava-Jato puzzle that is said to involve billions in a money-laundering operation orchestrated through state-controlled oil company Petrobras.
As Expresso explains, Brazil investigators are looking at the possibility that Lula was given large incentives “to use his influence in international markets”.
Odebrecht’s first project in Portugal, for instance, was “a stretch of the motorway of the north in Leiria”, writes the paper – Leiria being the base of Portugal’s own construction giant, Lena, whose boss, coincidentally, has also been cited as a defendant in Operation Marquês.
Expresso continues that, in Portugal, national authorities are interested in “knowing the details” of Odebrecht’s Portuguese deals “and their relationship with José Sócrates”.
This far, the paper claims, they have discovered Odebrecht’s joint collaboration with Lena during Sócrates’ heyday extended to the “construction of the Baixo Sabor dam (€275 million) and Greater Lisbon and Baixo Tejo motorway concessions.
“Lena and Odebrecht also took part in the consortium that won the bid to build a stretch of TGV between Poceirão and Caia,” the paper added – leaving readers to recall that the TGV project cost Portugal’s taxpayers over €153 million and resulted in nothing, as the project was eventually shelved.
Expresso adds that “of the three Brazilian conglomerates that operate in Portugal (Camargo Corrêa, Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez) all presidents have been arrested” by Lava-Jato investigators.
But if the contortions of institutional corruption were not already hard enough to follow, Expresso adds that among the arrested directors of Andrade Gutierrez is one Otávio Marques de Azevedo – the “principal strategist” in the fusion deal between Portugal Telecom and Brazilian telecommunications company Oi.
Azevedo was also involved “in the subsequent sale of PT to French operator Altice”, writes Expresso.
As Portugal’s television media rattles with this latest institutional disgrace, the “Lula Institution” in Brazil has reacted with what is described as “surprise”, saying it now needs some time to analyse all the material that its figurehead is being faced with.
Odebrecht has guaranteed meantime that its relationship with Lula has always been “transparent and in keeping with the position and importance of his role as the former president of Brazil”.