Timeline of turmoil: How Lava Jato has shaken Brazil

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An investigation into money laundering at car wash stations in Brazil's southern state of Paraná has evolved into the country's biggest ever corruption probe.

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Through Operation Lava Jato, federal police have uncovered a labyrinthine graft scheme involving many of Brazil's largest companies and top politicians.

The fallout from the scandal has dragged the country into an unprecedented political and economic crisis as suspended president Dilma Rousseff fights to ward off impeachment.

BNamericas has followed the investigation from day one. The following timeline identifies key moments in the two-and-a-half-year probe, as reported by our on-the-ground staff in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. 

March 20, 2014 – Federal police arrest Paulo Roberto Costa, the former refining and supply chief of state-run oil company Petrobras, on corruption charges related to his dealings with black market money changer Alberto Youssef.

Former Petrobras refining and supply chief Paulo Roberto Costa is arrested by federal police (CREDIT: Agência Brasil)

April 14, 2014 – Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff vows to fully cooperate with investigations into the growing Petrobras corruption scandal.

April 17, 2014 – Petrobras denies claims it breached federal competition laws by signing contracts without an open bidding process. 

June 12, 2014 – Paulo Roberto Costa is arrested for the second time in three months, this time for allegedly hiding millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account.

October 27, 2014 – Despite the graft scandal having tainted her government, Dilma Rousseff is re-elected president in one of the closest campaigns in Brazil's political history.

November 25, 2014 –  Petrobras reveals it is under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for corruption.

December 24, 2014 – President Rousseff sacks mining and energy minister Edison Lobão after he was among 54 people accused by Lava Jato investigators of taking bribes. 

Edison Lobão left the government's mining and energy portfolio after he was accused of participating in the Petrobras graft racket. CREDIT: AFP

January 14, 2015 – Federal police arrest Nestor Cerveró, the former director of Petrobras' international division, at Rio de Janeiro's international airport. 

February 6, 2015 – Former bank chief Aldemir Bendine replaces Maria das Graças Foster as Petrobras CEO.

Maria das Graças Foster (left), handpicked by President Dilma Rousseff to head Petrobras in 2012, resigned amid the deepening corruption scandal in February 2015

February 25, 2015 – Moody's slashes its investment rating for Petrobras to junk.

March 26, 2015 – Beset by corruption allegations, Brazilian construction firm Galvão Engenharia files for bankruptcy protection.

April 2, 2015 – Brazilian petrochemical producer Braskem says it has hired independent lawyers to probe its alleged links to the Petrobras graft scheme. 

April 23, 2015 – Petrobras reports a loss of 21.6bn reais (US$7.3bn) for 2014 after writing down 6.2bn reais in corruption-related costs. 

Then Petrobras CEO Aldemir Bendine faces the media after the company wrote off US$2.1bn of bribe payments in April 2015.

June 19, 2015 – Police arrest Marcelo Odebrecht and Otávio Azevedo, the presidents of builders Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez, on corruption charges.

June 29, 2015 – Petrobras slashes its investment forecast by about 40% is it struggles to overcome the impact of the crippling corruption scandal and sinking crude oil prices. 

July 14, 2015 – Police search the home of former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello and seize three of his luxury vehicles as part of their ongoing investigation.

Police confiscated three sports cars, including this Ferrari S43, after searching the Brasília home of former president and current senator Fernando Collor de Mello (CREDIT: AFP)

August 17, 2015 – Nestor Cerveró, who headed Petrobras' international division from 2003 to 2008, is jailed for 12 years after being found guilty of passive bribery and money laundering.

August 28, 2015 – Federal police indict the head of Eletronuclear, the nuclear unit of state-run utility Eletrobras, on corruption charges. Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva is among eight people formally charged for money laundering, passive corruption and organized crime.

Former Petrobras director Nestor Cerveró was jailed for 12 years in August 2015 after being found guilty of passive bribery and money laundering. CREDIT: AFP

September 2, 2015 – João Vaccari Neto, the former treasurer of Brazil's ruling workers' party (PT), is sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the graft scheme. The 56-year-old, the first politician to be found guilty of charges related to Lava Jato, is one of 10 people convicted by judge Sérgio Moro of corruption, money laundering and criminal association.

September 29, 2015 – Amid corruption allegations, construction work is halted on a 1.8bn-real natural gas processing unit at Petrobras' Comperj petrochemical complex. 

Work was halted at Petrobras' US$440mn Comperj natural gas processing unit in Rio de Janeiro amid allegations of contract irregularities (CREDIT: AFP)

September 30, 2015 – Eletronuclear suspends construction work on its US$4bn Angra 3 power plant pending an internal probe into alleged corruption. Federal prosecutors earlier said the project was a target of Lava Jato investigations. 

November 25, 2015 – BTG Pactual's CEO André Esteves, who helped turn the independent investment bank into the largest in Latin America, is arrested at his home in Rio de Janeiro. The leader of the PT in the senate, Delcídio Amaral, is also detained in Brasília. Both were accused of obstructing the corruption investigation.

February 1, 2016 – Former Petrobras director Jorge Zelada is sentenced to 12 years in prison. Zelada, who once headed Petrobras' international division, was found guilty of passive corruption and money laundering but was cleared of tax evasion.

March 4, 2016 – São Paulo prosecutors call for the provisional arrest of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, charging him with concealing ownership of a luxury apartment in the coastal city of Guarujá in the state of São Paulo.

March 8, 2016 - Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of Latin America's largest engineering group, Odebrecht, is sentenced to 19 years and four months in prison on corruption charges.

Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of Latin America's largest engineering and construction company Odebrecht, received a 19-year jail sentence for bribery, money laundering and organized crime (CREDIT: AFP)

March 14, 2016 – Millions of people take to the streets in 262 cities to march against the government and the Lava Jato scandal. 

March 17, 2016 – A federal judge files an injunction to suspend the appointment of Lula as Rousseff's chief of staff.

March 21, 2016 – Petrobras reports a 2015 net loss of 34.8bn reais, its worst ever full-year result amid the biggest corruption scandal in its history.

 Millions of people took part in anti-corruption marches across Brazil on March 14 this year, including an estimated 1mn protesters on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.

April 17, 2016 – The lower house votes to impeach Rousseff for allegedly manipulating government accounts, sending the motion against her to the senate. 

May 12, 2016 – The senate votes to start an impeachment trial against Rousseff. 

Dilma Rousseff waves to supporters in Brasília after the senate voted to begin an impeachment trial against her for allegedly breaking budget rules (CREDIT: AFP)

May 18, 2016  –The administration of interim president Michel Temer suspends negotiations of leniency deals with construction and engineering firms caught up in the Lava Jato operation.

May 30, 2016 –  Brazil's attorney general office files a two-part 11bn-real lawsuit against companies and individuals found guilty in the Lava Jato case.