The Washington Post - 3/5/2016

Brazil awoke in shock on Friday, as federal police surrounded the home of former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and took him away for three hours of questioning. Lula’s detention is related to a massive corruption case known as the Lava Jato investigation. What does this mean and why is it important? Here’s a primer:

What is the Lava Jato investigation?

In the run-up to the 2014 presidential elections, a task force of prosecutors and federal police began investigating corruption at Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil company. While on the trail of a money launderer who laundered ill-got gains through a car wash (in Portuguese, a high pressure wash is known as a “lava jato”), they found an unexplained gift of a Land Rover to a Petrobras executive.The ensuing investigation uncovered millions of dollars of theft by white-collar criminals. More importantly, the investigation also turned up evidence of significant off-the-books kickbacks by Brazil’s largest construction firms to politicians and political parties, including the governing Workers’ Party (PT) and its allies in the PMDB and PP, political parties that are part of the ruling coalition.

The ensuing investigation uncovered millions of dollars of theft by white-collar criminals. More importantly, the investigation also turned up evidence of significant off-the-books kickbacks by Brazil’s largest construction firms to politicians and political parties, including the governing Workers’ Party (PT) and its allies in the PMDB and PP, political parties that are part of the ruling coalition.

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