BRASILIA – One of the prosecutors investigating a massive corruption scheme centered on Brazilian state oil company Petrobras said on Thursday that members of the lower house of Congress were using the legislative process to try to shield implicated lawmakers from punishment.
Some groups in the Chamber of Deputies are trying to insert an “amnesty” provision into a broader civil society-sponsored anti-corruption bill, Carlos Fernando dos Santos said at a seminar in Brasilia organized by the federal Attorney General’s Office.
That provision would ensure that failure to declare money raised for electoral campaigns or political activity – whether by omission or concealment – would not be punishable under criminal, civil or electoral law if it occurred prior to the date the bill becomes law, according to a text that has circulated among the lower-house lawmakers and was published Thursday by the local press.
Dos Santos issued his warning shortly before the Chamber of Deputies decided in a special session that the bill, which was introduced to ensure stiffer penalties for corruption crimes, would be expedited through a fast-track procedure.
That means debate on the bill could wrap up on Thursday with a vote that, according to the prosecutor, could “toss into the garbage” the entire Petrobras investigation.
Despite the prosecutor’s warnings, the bill would still have to be approved in the Senate, where it could undergo further modification.
The Petrobras investigation unearthed a decade-long scheme in which Odebrecht and other large Brazilian construction and engineering companies allegedly overcharged the oil giant for contracts and split the extra money with corrupt Petrobras executives while setting aside some of the loot to pay off politicians who provided cover for the graft.
Prominent figures, including erstwhile Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms over the scandal, which is estimated to have cost Petrobras as much as $2 billion.
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a political giant in Brazil who could run again in the 2018 presidential election, will stand trial for, among other things, allegedly accepting bribes from one of the companies implicated in the Petrobras scheme.