In 2003, reform-minded civil servants saw an opening to combat pervasive corruption within the government of Brazil. A new president who had promised to end political graft had just come into office. The question was how to secure the right legal instruments, overcome lack of capacity, and create the coordination needed to detect, prosecute, and sanction wrongdoers. The reformers organized an informal, whole-government network to combat money laundering and corruption. They identified shared priorities, coordinated interagency policy making, and tracked progress. Leaders in the judiciary, executive, and prosecutor’s service drafted enabling legislation, strengthened monitoring, improved information sharing, and built institutional capacity and specialization. Gradually, those efforts bore fruit, and by 2016, authorities were prosecuting the biggest corruption case in the country’s history and had disrupted an entrenched political culture.
Gordon LaForge drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Brazil from December 2016 to February 2017. The British Academy-Department for International Development Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Program funded the development of this case study. Case published February 2017.