Exclusive: Brazil prosecutor sees 350 new graft probes after Odebrecht testimony

Brazilian federal prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima attends an interview with Reuters in Curitiba, Brazil, March 14, 2017. Picture taken March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer

A top Brazilian prosecutor said more than 350 new investigations will spring from a trove of testimony by executives of construction firm Odebrecht, revealing how corruption cut across the political spectrum from the smallest cities to the highest levels of government.

Carlos Lima, the dean of a team of prosecutors in southern Brazil that is driving the three-year old “Car Wash” investigation, said the Odebrecht statements expanded the probe far beyond expectations and would ensnare top congressmen, senior members of the executive branch and other powerful figures.

On Tuesday, Brazil’s Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot asked the Supreme Court to open 83 new investigations into politicians based on the still-sealed testimony. He also requested another 211 potential cases be sent to lower courts.

“Between the cases that will go to the Supreme Court and those that will land here with us in Curitiba, there will be upward of 350 new investigations that will begin,” Lima told Reuters Tuesday in his office in the southern city of Curitiba.

The revelations could topple President Michel Temer’s government, experts say, or derail the prospect of economic reforms that has lifted Brazilian financial markets and made its currency amongst the best performing in the world last year.

Odebrecht is one of several large construction firms that for years paid billions of dollars in bribes to Brazilian politicians and executives at state-controlled businesses, primarily oil company Petrobras.

The ‘Car Wash’ investigation started three years ago with a probe into a money launderer whose testimony revealed the vast scheme that has now enveloped top political and business leaders.

Since signing the world’s largest leniency deal with Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss prosecutors late last year, Odebrecht has become the target of probes by several Latin American nations, where it admitted to paying bribes to…