Brazil's "Car Wash" scandal: three years of upheaval

Damian WROCLAVSKY
Demonstrators march along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 26, 2017 during a nationwide protest against political corruption

The authorization by Brazil's Supreme Court on Tuesday of probes against nine ministers and dozens of lawmakers marks a new tremor in a corruption scandal shaking Latin America's biggest country.

Here are key moments in the unprecedented corruption probe known as operation Lava Jato, or "Car Wash:"

- 2014: Stumbling on a mega-scandal -

March 17: Probably Brazil's biggest ever corruption scandal starts by accident.

Police detain black market money dealer Alberto Youssef in what starts as a routine money laundering probe involving a gas station.

But the probe leads investigators to massive state oil company Petrobras. Paulo Roberto Costa, a Petrobras director, is arrested and testifies that the company has been funneling dirty money into the ruling Workers' Party and its allies.

- 2015: Massive scope becomes clear -

March 6: The Supreme Court authorizes probes against 12 senators and 22 lower house deputies suspected of participating in a scheme to embezzle from Petrobras.

June 19: The CEO of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, Marcelo Odebrecht, is arrested and later sentenced to 19 years in prison for corruption. His company is found to have systematically bribed politicians to win inflated contracts from Petrobras.

Other arrests in 2015 include leading Workers' Party figures Jose Dirceu and Delcidio Amaral, and Andre Esteves, the head of Latin America's biggest investment bank BTG.

- 2016: Political unrest erupts -

March 4: Once hugely popular ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is taken in for questioning.

Prosecutors accuse Lula, who founded the Workers' Party and was in power during much of the period under investigation, of taking bribes in the form of real estate.

May 12: With popular anger against corruption growing, Congress votes to suspend Lula's successor, President Dilma Rousseff, for illegally manipulating government accounts. She is thrown out of office on August 31.

Michel Temer, Rousseff's deputy, takes over as president, but is immediately caught up in the Car Wash scandal. Several ministers are forced to resign after being implicated.

- 2017: Odebrecht time bomb -

January 26: Plea deals by 77 Odebrecht executives provide Car Wash investigators with a flood of new testimony.

Fallout from Odebrecht goes international as it emerges that the company also paid bribes for contracts in a string of other countries. The company agreed with the US Justice Department in December 2016 to pay a record $3.5 billion fine to settle.

March 14: Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot asks the Supreme Court for authority to open 83 new probes, based on Odebrecht plea deals, against sitting politicians.

March 30: Former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, until recently one of the most powerful men in Brazil, is sentenced to more than 15 years prison for corruption.

April 11: The Supreme Court authorizes the latest wave of probes. Nine Temer ministers are targeted, along with 29 senators and 42 members of the lower house of Congress, according to a count by the respected Estadao newspaper.