Brazil corruption scandals: All you need to know

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Two former presidents - close allies Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - have found themselves under investigation since 2014

For the past three years, Brazil has been gripped by a scandal which started with a state-owned oil company and grew to encapsulate people at the very top of business – and even presidents.

On the face of it, it is a straightforward corruption scandal – albeit one involving millions of dollars in kickbacks and more than 80 politicians and members of the business elite.

But as the tentacles of the investigation dubbed Operation Car Wash fanned out, other scandals emerged.

It has led to some of those who have found themselves accused claiming they are the victims of political plots, designed to bar them from office.

But what is this scandal all about? And who is it said to involve?

What is Operation Car Wash?

Operation Car Wash began in March 2014 as an investigation into allegations that Brazil’s biggest construction firms overcharged state-oil company Petrobras for building contracts.

Investigators accused directors at the firm – named the world’s most ethical oil and gas company in 2008 – of skimming the extra money off the top as a bribe for awarding the contract.

Which is bad enough – but then the Workers’ Party found itself dragged into the corruption scandal amid allegations of having funnelled some of these funds to pay off politicians and buy their votes and help with political campaigns.

Among those accused in the scandal were dozens of politicians, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – the country’s extremely popular former president, known affectionately as “Lula”.

Corruption at the highest level?

Three years after the investigation began, Lula was found guilty of the first of five charges against him: that he had been given a beachfront apartment by engineering firm OAS in return for his help in winning contracts with Petrobras.

He has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison, although he will not be jailed until the outcome of an appeal.

But Lula, who denies all charges, says the investigation and trial were politically motivated to prevent him from running for president again in the next election.

Lula isn’t the only one to have held the presidency to face investigation right now: the two people who followed in his footsteps are facing corruption allegations of their own.

The attorney general has charged current President Michel Temer – the former vice-president who took office in August last year – with receiving money from the boss of giant meatpacking firm JBS, which itself is already implicated in a corruption scandal.

The charges have been delivered to a Supreme Court judge who must now decide if the case can be sent to the lower house of parliament, which will decide whether or not to lift his presidential immunity.

Mr Temer denies all charges.

And then there are the separate allegations which saw his predecessor Dilma Rousseff – who followed Lula into office after he had served two terms – impeached in August 2016.