BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s new top federal prosecutor on Tuesday reshuffled the team of investigators in charge of pursuing the biggest corruption probe yet conducted in Latin America’s largest nation.
Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge, who took over the post on Monday after the end of her predecessor Rodrigo Janot’s term, had previously invited all the members of Janot’s team of prosecutors working on the “Car Wash” corruption probe to stay.
However, few expressed interest in continuing, and Dodge, 56, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard and has spent three decades working as a federal prosecutor, decided to replace the entire team with her own choices. Just a few of the previous prosecutors will stay on for a month to help with the transition.
The “Car Wash” investigation, which began in early 2014, has led to an unprecedented fight against entrenched political corruption in Brazil.
It has uncovered billions of dollars in bribes paid by major construction firms to politicians and executives at state-run enterprises such Petroleo Brasileiro in return for lucrative contracts.
It is one of several major investigations taking place in Brazil, probes that have led to the conviction of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and charges being levelled against President Michel Temer, his predecessor Dilma Rousseff, and two more former presidents.
Charges have been lodged or investigations opened against dozens of federal lawmakers, while over 100 powerful businessmen and politicians have been convicted.
While there was a clear personal rift between Janot and Dodge, whose appointment by Temer was ratified by the Senate in August, that does not necessarily mean federal prosecutors will be any less aggressive in pursuing corruption.
“Obviously there will be a change in style, but there will be no change in the course of investigations,” said Carlos Pereira, a professor of public policy at the Getulio Vargas Foundation and one of Brazil’s top experts on corruption. “But the team chosen by (Dodge) is extremely professional and has already shown skills in fighting corruption.”
Among the prosecutors who will be part of Dodge’s Car Wash investigation team are veterans from Brazil’s first major probe into political corruption, the 2005 “Mensalao” scandal.
It ended with top members of Lula’s government being found guilty of paying off lawmakers in return for their support of Lula’s legislation.
Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia and Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo; Editing by Jonathan Oatis