The great enemy of corruption in Brazil

Sérgio Moro

Judge Sérgio Moro has become the face of an investigation that spares neither politicians nor businessmen

For some he is a paragon of virtue. For others, he represents all that is wrong with Brazil. He has been accused of having his own agenda and conducting 'selective' investigations. Aged 46, Sérgio Moro has been under police protection since 2016 - 24 hours a day, every day of the year. In charge of Operation Car Wash, Moro gained even more public attention when he launched an investigation into former Brazilian President Lula da Silva - the so-called 'Guarujá triplex' case, an offshoot of Operation Car Wash.

This was the controversial culmination of a process that harks back to 2003, when Moro started investigating financial crimes as a judge. Lula's party has accused Moro of political persecution against the former President, which Moro has always rejected.

Moro sentenced Lula to a 12-and-a-half-year prison term in July 2017, for corruption and money laundering, which the former President has been serving since April. This is the first time that a Brazilian President is serving a prison term. But Lula is only the best-known name in a long list of politicians (both left and right) and big businessmen who have allegedly given in to the temptation of achieving goals or obtaining favors through corruption.

In late July, speaking at the Brazilian Reconstruction Forum in São Paulo, Moro claimed that his decisions have always been "transparent". He admitted being a victim of "misinterpretations" but claimed that he has always acted "with the intention of doing the right thing." One of the criticisms that have been repeatedly directed at him is that he recorded conversations between Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff when the latter was serving as Brazilian President, which would constitute a wrong decision and a misinterpretation of the judicial mechanisms for this situation. The fact that he allegedly ordered Lula's arrest when he was taken to the Federal Police headquarters in March 2016 has also been used as an argument against Moro. Later, however, it was revealed that Lula himself demanded to be handcuffed, saying that he wouldn't leave his residence otherwise.

On another occasion, in response to those who accuse him of having a specific political agenda, Moro claimed that he has "no connections whatsoever with any political parties... A judge works with facts. Partisan interests do not interfere with my profession."

Moro received some death threats two years ago, forcing him to give up daily routines such as cycling to court, jogging, and walking from his workplace to the restaurant he usually goes to during the week. A TV Record report aired in March 2016 mentioned that Moro began to move around in an armored car, with the permanent protection of five police officers. Two years after the launch of Operation Car Wash. Although Moro gained notoriety with what is seen as the largest white-collar crime investigation in Brazilian history, his career in this area began in 2004 with Operation Farol da Colina (involving the embezzlement of funds in the 1990s from Banco Banestado to offshore companies in tax havens). This was followed by the famous Mensalão case (a vote-buying scheme in the Brazilian Parliament, with the respective trial beginning in 2012). Moro then joined Operation Car Wash's judicial team in Paraná.

Moro was born in August 1972, in Paraná, to a family of teachers. He studied Law at Maringá State University, where he graduated in 1995 and teaches today. He also had the opportunity to pursue a specialization at Harvard Law School, where he improved his knowledge about white-collar corruption and money laundering. He became a judge at the age of 24 and was stationed in Curitiba City, where he now heads the 13th Jurisdiction, specializing in financial crimes and money laundering. He worked in a law firm for a short period of time.

It was in Curitiba that he met his wife Rosângela Wolff, with whom he has two children.

Read more about Operation Car Wash in Folha de S. Paulo