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Brazil’s Anti-Corruption Bill Now Seeks to Punish Judges

  • Carwash prosecutors threaten to quit probe if bill becomes law
  • Proposals had been backed by more than 2 million Brazilians

Brazil’s lower house of Congress passed a watered-down package of anti-corruption measures that fails to impose tougher rules on civil servants and makes it easier to prosecute judges for so-called responsibility crimes.

The bill, which drew strong condemnation from prosecutors and the head of the Supreme Court, was originally aimed at addressing widespread corruption and white-collar crimes in Latin America’s largest economy. It had garnered the support of more than 2 million Brazilians who signed a petition for anti-corruption measures in the aftermath a massive kickback scheme involving politicians and state-run companies such as oil giant Petrobras. The broad corruption probe became known in Brazil as “Carwash.”

Instead, the version of the bill approved by the lower house in the wee hours of Wednesday allows the very same judges and prosecutors working in the Carwash investigation to be prosecuted for crimes such as engaging in political activities or publicly commenting on pending trials.  

Lawmakers turned off-the-book campaign donations into a criminal offense, punishable with up to five years in prison, but failed to impose tougher penalties on public servants who engage in illicit enrichment. The amended bill is expected to be put to a vote in the Senate in 2017, Senate chief Renan Calheiros told reporters in Brasilia.

‘Intimidation Bill’

Supreme Court President Carmen Lucia said in a statement that, if approved, the bill could hurt the independence of the courts and prosecutors involved in Carwash proceedings warned they will be unable to keep working on the probe if the bill is approved.

“That will be the beginning of the end of Carwash,” the prosecutors said in a statement, calling the proposal an “intimidation bill.”

General Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot said the anti-corruption package approved by the lower house became “a pale shadow of the proposal that would have moved us closer to global practices” and called on Brazil’s society to ensure it doesn’t make it through the Senate. 

VemPraRua, the same group that organized protests for the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, has called for nationwide demonstrations against the amended bill for Sunday, Dec. 4.

— With assistance by Danielle Chaves

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