Brendan O'Shaughnessy | May 18, 2018
The story of how Judge Sérgio Moro became the 2018 Commencement Speaker for the University of Notre Dame began with a stroke of luck at a humble gas station in the capital city of Brazil.
Six years ago, a police officer who used to be an air traffic controller was listening to a wiretapped conversation in a money-laundering investigation. He recognized the voice of a long-time pilot and smuggler named Alberto Youssef, which led to a wiretap on Youssef’s phone and an email about a Range Rover used to bribe an executive of the country’s government-controlled oil company, Petrobras.
When the executive, Paulo Roberto Costa, flipped and became a cooperating witness, a pervasive kickback scheme unfolded. A cartel of companies colluded with Petrobras officials to overcharge for construction and service work, with a portion of each fixed contract going to a slush fund for Petrobras and government officials. The gory details included Rolex watches, $3,000 wine bottles, yachts, artwork, cars, prostitutes and an elderly gentleman who delivered bricks of shrink-wrapped cash around the world, strapped beneath a Spanx-style vest.
Moro, 45, has been the driving force leading the ensuing corruption investigation, which Brazilian experts characterize as bigger than Watergate. So far Operação Lava Jato, or Operation Car Wash, has uncovered more than $3 billion in bribes and charged more than 200 politicians and business leaders with crimes. It helped bring down one administration, leveled allegations against corporate titans and the leaders of the Brazilian House and Senate, and in April landed a former president — and leading candidate for the next election — in prison.
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