Brazilian Scandal Focus of New Netflix Series

By Melina Fleury

A Brazilian corruption scheme, nicknamed “Operation Car Wash,” that was broken by a Federal Police investigation is now going beyond international news coverage by The New York Times and BBC and is becoming a Netflix series. Netflix confirmed that it is producing a new original show based on the Brazilian police investigation of the corruption at Petrobras – the biggest state-owned Brazilian corporation in the petroleum industry.

The show has a provisional title of  “Jet Wash” and is being produced by Brazilian director and screenwriter Jose Padilha, who was also responsible for directing the successful Netflix series Narcos, about the life of drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Unlike the police investigation against Escobar, which came to an end 22 years before being adapted into fiction, the Brazilian investigation into “Car Wash” is still unfolding and has no end in sight.

petrobras5Padilha and Netflix bought the rights to the book, “Lava Jato – o Juiz Sergio Moro e Os Bastidores da Operação Que Abalou o Brasil” (Car Wash – Judge Sergio Moro and the Backstage of the Operation that shook Brazil), by reporter Vladimir Netto. The book was released in July 2016, and it documents the biggest scandals in the operation so far. The TV show will be told as a crime thriller.  It will include the start of the operation, with the arrest of the country’s biggest contractor, Marcelo Odebrecht; former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva being forcefully taken in for questioning; and the overall public reaction to the biggest investigation against corruption in the country.

Padilha sounds excited to bring the scandal to television, describing it as a “tropical perestroika,” and comparing it to a “real House of Cards.” In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the producer said the unfolding scandal itself was already a television series.

The Netflix show will detail the corruption scandal, and Padilha promises novelties not yet published by the media. “This project will follow the judicial investigators in their journey to unveil the largest corruption scheme that Brazil has ever witnessed,” he said in a Netflix statement. This will be the second Netflix show produced in Brazil. The first one, a dystopian thriller called 3%, is considered Netflix’s “next big thing” and has a global release date of Nov. 25.

What is Operation Car Wash Exactly?

 The operation started as a money laundering investigation in March 2014, shortly before now-impeached former President Dilma Rousseff was re-elected, and it grew into an on-going two-year investigation to uncover corruption and bribery allegations at Petrobras.  Top executives from some of the country’s biggest construction companies bribed Petrobras’ officials to inflate the prices of the oil company’s contracts.

One of the first accusations was made towards Paulo Roberto Costa, senior executive at Petrobras, after investigators learned Costa had been given a car by convicted black-market money changer Alberto Youssef, according to Reuters. He then admitted to have been taking bribes for nearly 10 years. Dozens of politicians were accused of paying or receiving kickbacks, reported the BBC.

During the last two years, more than 100 people, including senators and executives of Petrobras, have been arrested. The Brazilian Federal Police believes the group might have moved over $3 billion illegally. Around 230 business are still being investigated, according to prosecutors.

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

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