Brazilian prosecutors awarded Transparency International’s 2016 Anti-Corruption Award

4 December 2016

On 2 December 2016, Transparency International presented the Brazilian Força-Tarefa Lava Jato (Carwash Task Force) with its Anti-Corruption Award, which honours remarkable anti-corruption individuals and organisations around the world.

The 2016 award went to the prosecutors at the centre of Brazil’s largest ever investigation into state capture and corruption. Not only have their investigations led to “more than 240 criminal charges and 118 convictions totalling 1,256 years of jail time,” but they have also pushed for legislative reform on preventing, investigating, prosecuting and sanctioning these crimes.

Força-Tarefa Lava Jato’s moving acceptance speech is reproduced below.

Acceptance speech of Brazilian Lava Jato prosecutors

We would like to thank Transparency International for this so important award and the Brazilian citizens who nominated us. We feel extremely honored of being part of a list of so qualified nominees and of being chosen among 580 candidates appointed by the people around the world. We will thank everybody more properly tonight. For now, We would like to say that we respect and admire the distinct work that Transparency International has done, is doing and is committed to do around the world. You are our heroes. More than that, we would like to say that we are thankful for the support that you have given to us in Brazil. Additionally, we have to say that we are no more than representatives of a huge team work which involved particularly the Federal Prosecution Office as a whole, the Federal Police, the Brazilian IRS and an independent, firm and impartial activity of the Judiciary.

This award renews our strength in a month that was impacted by strong events in Brazil which culminated in what happened this week. The Car Wash case is under threat.

  • Two weeks ago congressmen were, in the shade of secret meetings, intending to pass a bill which would give amnesty to corruption and money laundering related to cooperation agreements. We denounced it to the press. They gave up.
  • One week ago, once more secretly, congressmen conspired to pass a bill which would pardon corruption and money laundering in the Car Wash case, particularly regarding politicians. People convicted of receiving dozens of millions of dollars in bribes would just go free. Again, we had to go to the press to accuse it. They retreated.
  • The background of these attacks is the negotiation of an agreement with one company which was one of the major payers of bribes. The company had a department set aside to make illicit payments. Dozens of politicians were implicated. The closer we were to the agreement, the stronger was the reaction of the Congress.
  • This week, the House of representatives crossed the line. As a newspaper said, some had to choose between, on the one hand, the punishment of the law and, on the other hand, the public opinion risk of making up a law to protect themselves.
  • And so it happened. This week, when a deep tragedy dove the country into a sea of grief, merciless men put in course a cruel strategy. While Brazil was mourning the air crash which put to death dozen of soccer players and while the headlines were full of pain, Deputies of the House of Representatives worked through the night to inflict the strongest strike the Car Wash case suffered along more than two years of its life.
  • The self-protective bill passed in that House. Instead of amnesty to crimes, they approved a bill to cut off the independence of the Federal Prosecution Office and the Judiciary. As a national weekly magazine said in its cover page, having the grass of a soccer field in its background: “while Brazil cried the tragedy… congressman entered the field against Car Wash”.
  • The lower Chamber of our Congress showed how detached it can be from popular will. It took advantage of a popular bill, signed by more than 2 million people against corruption, and not only destroyed it but also used the bill as a vehicle to attack and threaten prosecutors and judges. The once honorable bill was made a corrupt law of revenge against judges and prosecutors who are fighting grand corruption in Brazil.
  • We live this week a double and profound pain: for the victims of the aircrash and for the victims of Congress. Ignoring the underlying conflict of interest, the congressmen torn down the hopes of those who expected a constructive action of our Congress against – and not for – the massive corruption which bleeds our country and surfaced in Car Wash.
  • The provisions of the bill are so destructive that there will be no more conditions for us, as prosecutors, to work in the Car Wash taskforce if it comes into force. José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International, during the famous investigation that he conducted in Peru, responded to 75 criminal cases against him – leave aside the civil complaints. We need to bring to our memories that Antonio Di Pietro, in the Clean Hands case, in Italy, stepped out of the prosecution office in order to be able to defend himself after he suffered hundreds of false accusations. This is the path that our Congress proclaimed that it would follow this week. We announced that, if the Bill is approved also by Senate and the President, we will resign. The Senate president tried to approve it in the same day, but Senators retreated under a strong public opinion reaction. Now, the bill passed by the House of Representatives is still subject to the Senate approval.
  • Regarding our possible resignation, it is not a matter of giving up, but of recognizing that, once the line was crossed, Car Wash authorities are helpless against legislators that use their power to protect themselves. This may be the beginning of the end of Car Wash. More than that, the Congress action conveys a strong message about the direction that the Brazilian Government wants to follow in the matter of corruption.
  • We urge Congress to change this direction. We urge Brazilian society to react through democratic and pacific means.
  • Alone, our fight will be in vain. We will be defeated if the Brazilian society and the international community does not take a strong stance through democratic and pacific channels that may awake Congress to the fact that no one – not even Congress – is above the Rule of Law. Congressmen say they represent the people. However, when they approved the midnight bill, they did not represent the people’s interests, in a clear conflict of interests situation. The sovereign power is still of the people and the public interest is the sole north.
  • Maybe society will remind Congress of the suffering of the people who cry the lack of education, health and safety which corruption causes everyday.
  • Fighting corruption is an international effort. Many of the lines of Car Wash investigations will take us to crimes committed abroad and this may be impaired by the plot that is going on in the darkness. We need the international community to take a stance in what is going on in Brazil. Both internal and external pressure were important for reforms in many countries which passed laws that helped to turn the pages of corruption scandals. We thank Transparency International for taking a stance on this. Ugaz, we really appreciate your humanitarian efforts in benefit of our nation.

In a suffocating moment, this anticorruption award is a breath of fresh air in Car Wash and in our lives. We will face more and more challenges, but being here tonight and receiving this recognition has renewed our strength.

Finally, we dedicate this award to every Brazilian citizen who felt or still feels powerless facing corruption. We would like to tell you that the only power that the Car Wash case has against the illegitimate use of power by the corrupt is the loud voice of society. You, the people, are our strength.Your acts comfort us when we feel as if the ceiling is falling on our heads. This is the reason why we were not defeated yet. We count on this to keep working as far as society may shield and take us.

I beg your pardon to repeat this last point in Portuguese. Nós dedicamos este prêmio para cada cidadão brasileiro que se sentiu ou se sente impotente contra a corrupção. Nós queremos dizer a Você que o único poder que a Lava Jato tem contra o uso ilegítimo do poder por corruptos é a alta voz da sociedade. Vocês, o povo, são a nossa força. Seus atos nos confortam quando nós sentimos que o teto está caindo sobre nossas cabeças. Essa é a razão pela qual nós não fomos ainda derrotados. Nós contamos com isso para continuar trabalhando até onde a sociedade nos proteger e nos levar.