Brazil prosecutors criticize foreign asset amnesty law

Reuters News
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Posted: May 04, 2017 8:33 AM

By Pedro Fonseca

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian prosecutors criticized a recent government amnesty program for foreign assets on Thursday, adding to tensions between the country's crusading judiciary and the executive and legislative branches who held the program up as a success.

The sharp criticism came as investigators gave details of the latest arrests in a sweeping corruption probe, which targeted three former executives of state-controlled oil company PetrĂ³leo Brasileiro SA on Thursday.

Prosecutors said the former executives had received more than 100 million reais ($32 million) in bribes from companies that won rigged bids for contracts from the natural gas division of the oil giant known as Petrobras.

One of the executives later brought some 48 million reais of bribe money held in offshore accounts back into Brazil under false pretenses, taking advantage of an amnesty program for undeclared assets abroad last year, according to prosecutors.

"This is a very serious fact, as it shows that the law institutionalized the money laundering of assets held abroad," said prosecutor Diogo Castor in a statement.

The criticism of a law passed last year with the support of President Michel Temer underscored how prosecutors running the largest graft investigation in Brazil's history have run into open confrontation with the political establishment.

Temer hailed the amnesty program for raising around 50 billion reais in taxes and fines to help the government meet its budget target and called on Congress to start another program swiftly. In March, the Senate sent a bill to his desk opening the repatriation window for another 120 days.

Last month, the three-year-old corruption probe known as "Operation Car Wash" sent shockwaves through the capital when the Supreme Court authorized investigations into eight cabinet ministers and dozens of senior lawmakers.

Federal prosecutors reiterated on Thursday that they had presented Congress with ten measures that should be passed into law to strengthen their fight against corruption.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing and additional reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Brad Haynes; Editing by Bernadette Baum)