Setback for Brazilian anti-corruption tsar

14 May 19
Lawmakers in Brazil have attempted to curb sweeping anti-corruption powers given to the country’s new justice and public security minister. 

Members of congress have reversed a decision to hand Sérgio Moro a key tool for monitoring financial transactions in a sign of hostility towards the crusading former federal judge.

The move is a setback for the government of Brazil’s populist rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro, who has used Moro as the public face of his promise to end a culture of political corruption and impunity. 

The decision, by a special joint committee, must still be ratified by the lower house of Congress and then the Senate, reports Reuters.

The committee voted to return the administration of the Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF) – which tracks suspicious movements of funds in Brazil’s banking system – to the Economy Ministry.

Moro had pushed Bolsonaro to transfer control of COAF to him when he was appointed to head the justice ministry, arguing that this was crucial for fulfilling the new president’s campaign promises.

The move alarmed lawmakers who are under investigation on suspicion of corruption, but critics also say that control of COAF potentially consolidates too much power in the hands of Moro. 

The new justice minister is disliked by many in the political elite, whom the former judge targeted remorselessly in his five-year investigation of corruption in the corridors of power known as “Operation Car Wash”. 

He also served as an auxiliary judge in the “Mensalão” vote-buying scandal that threatened to bring down the leftwing government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005.

Bolsonaro said last week that he wanted Congress to ensure COAF remains under the control of the justice ministry.

On Monday it was reported that Bolsonaro is intending to appoint Moro to the supreme court in November as part of an agreement they had reached prior to his election.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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