Brazil prosecutor vows tough measures to tackle corruption


Brasília (AFP) - Brazil's public prosecutor vowed Friday to tackle corruption, as the country reels from a far-reaching graft scandal involving state oil firm Petrobras.

A week after anti-government street protests showed the extent of popular anger, the prosecutor promised to tighten sentencing for graft-related crime and to create an "integrity test" for public officials while banning slush funds used in election campaigning.

"These are suggestions we shall put before Congress, as we feel they will improve the performance of the Brazilian public prosecutor in combating corruption, which is a running sore in our society," prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot said.

Janot earlier this month gave the courts the green light to investigate dozens of politicians accused of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks from inflated contracts involving Petrobras and contractors over a decade.

Under Janot's plans, graft would be made a "high risk" crime on a par with, for example, homicide. Stiffer jail terms of up to 25 years would also be introduced.

"Corruption kills. Corruption today steals the food off your plate, as well as health and schooling for Brazilian civilians," said Deltan Dallagnol, the prosecutor coordinating the investigation into the Petrobras affair, dubbed Operation Car Wash.

"We have to account for what we are doing. There is no point in clamping down if we do not turn off the corruption tap," said Nicolao Dino, coordinator for the prosecution service's anti-corruption division.

President Dilma Rousseff, a former Petrobras board chair whose administration is under fire as the full scope of the Petrobras affair is laid bare, earlier this week announced an package of anti-corruption bills.

Saying Brazil had an "obligation to fight impunity and corruption," she unveiled measures including bills to criminalize under-the-table campaign contributions, seize property from government officials who cannot document its origin and bar anyone without a clean criminal record from serving in public office.

Rousseff is reeling from the Petrobras fallout with a latest Datafolha opinion poll putting her approval rating at a dismal 13 percent.

Former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso late Thursday lamented the avalanche of scandal which has Rousseff fighting to maintain her authority just months into her second term.

"Brazil is mired in several crises, that's what worries me -- a conglomeration of crises," Cardoso told Globo News.

"There is an economic crisis, a crisis of political conduct ... a moral crisis," added Cardoso, indicating he believed Rousseff has "lost credibility."

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