The epic alleged bribery and corruption ring unwinding at Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, involves executives and politicians spiriting away tens of millions of dollars (and costing Brazil’s economy far more). Brazilian police announced their investigation of the scandal, now known as Operation Car Wash, in March of 2014 after investigators were tipped off when they learned known money launderer (link in Portuguese) Alberto Youssef had given a Land Rover worth $78,000 to former Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa.
Prosecutors have since charged Costa and Youssef for their involvement in the scheme. Both men have struck plea bargains, and named individuals and divulged details about the operation. While corruption can seem abstract on its face, one person reminds us that it comes down to cold, hard cash: the bag man.
Or, in this case, the Saran Wrap and Spanx man. One of Youssef’s employees, Rafael Angulo Lopez, whose Spanish citizenship facilitated transferring funds to Europe (via commercial flights, on his body), told lawyers and investigators how he carried approximately R$3 million (around US$1.4 million, depending on the date of the transfers) of currency on his person. If there is any doubt regarding the legality of the money exchanging hands, Lopez’s process probably puts it to rest. Above, see how he said he did it, as detailed and illustrated by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo (link in Portuguese).
Lest you imagine this always went smoothly, Folha de São Paulo reports that Lopez told investigators and lawyers a story of another courier, Adarico Negromonte, boarding the wrong plane with about $R 500,000, and being forced to fly to the south of Brazil and back again before traveling to Salvador, Bahia in the northeast, as originally planned. (Negromonte denied the incident, according to Folha de São Paulo.) Such machinations beg for a Brazilian version of Wolf of Wall Street, with middle-aged couriers in baggy suits and compression vests in place of Swiss misses in stilettos and bikinis.