Brazil's Federal Police on Wednesday arrested twelve Federal Tax Administration prosecutors who were suspected of charging bribes to people investigated for the “Car Wash” incident, the largest anti-corruption operation in the history of this South American country.
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These IRS prosecutors belonged to a criminal network which utilized sensative information to blackmail people and demand money in exchange for the reduction or cancellation of tax evasion fines.
The leader of this criminal organization, Marco Aurelio Canal, who worked as a software supervisor for the Brazilian treasury, was a member of the Car Wash task force.
After accessing reserved data, he negotiated bribes with those who were being investigated instead of charging them the fines determined by the IRS authorities.
The illegal operations carried out by these 12 officials were discovered thanks to the statements of two Car Wash suspects who were collaborating with the justice department. Data provided by them allowed the Brazilian police and tax authorities to identify illegal, hidden assets.
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Years before the detection of this gang of prosecutors, however, the Lula Institute said that Marco Aurelio Canal tried to extort this Worker's Party (PT) think thank.
"Between Oct. 2015 and April 2018, the Lula Institute's accounts were subject to an exhaustive surveillance led by Marco Aurelio. From the very beginning, we denounced that such surveillance was politically motivated," the Lula Institute said and clarified that it always collaborated with those investigations because "we have nothing to hide."
Brazil's Car Wash operation was an investigation initially led by former Judge Sergio Moro, who is currently President Jair Bolsonaro's Justice Minister.
It was supposedly aimed only at detecting cases of money laundering related to Odebrecht, an engineering private company which was accused of bribing public officials in exchange for obtaining construction contracts with Petrobras, the state-owned oil company.
Subsequently, however, the Car Wash operation evolved into a tool through which the Brazilian far-right activated mechanisms of judicial persecution against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Earlier this year The Intercept leaked confidential information that showed that the Car Wash prosecutors were motivated to prevent Lula da Silva and the Workers' Party from winning the 2018 presidential election.