Brazilian Prosecution Service
The Prosecution Service of the Union (MPU) in Brazil comprises the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF), Labour Prosecution Service, Military Prosecution Service, and Prosecution Service of the Federal District and territories. The MPU and the Prosecutions Services in all states form the Brazilian Prosecution System.
In Brazil, the Prosecution Service is not part of the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches, being totally independent. It cannot be terminated and its duties cannot be transferred to other government agencies. Prosecutors have their independence guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution. Therefore, they are subordinated to an authority for administrative purposes only, but each member of the Prosecution Service is free to act according to their conscience and convictions under the law.
The MPF acts on those federal matters regulated by the Constitution and federal laws whenever public interest is involved, by virtue of the parties or of the matter itself. It is also the MPF’s responsibility to ensure compliance with the laws in force in Brazil, including international agreements. Furthermore, the MPF acts as a guardian of democracy, ensuring respect for principles and rules that guarantee popular participation.
A member of the Federal Prosecution Service begin his/her career as federal prosecutor after passing a specific competitive civil service examination. When promoted, he/she becomes a regional federal prosecutor and then a deputy prosecutor general.
One of the principles guaranteed to the MPF by the Brazilian Constitution is that of functional independence. This means that each MPF member retains complete autonomy to exercise professional services on an individual basis. In this respect, members are not subject to orders from higher hierarchical levels within the MPF or any other governmental agency. Therefore, if several federal prosecutors bring a lawsuit simultaneously, they may take different positions and stances on the case.
Scope of the MPF
In civil protection cases, the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) acts to defend diffuse interests (interests that are not person- or group-specific but are shared by the society as a whole); collective interests (interests held by a group, category or class of persons linked together or to the opposing party by a basic legal relationship) and homogeneous individual interests (which stem from a common origin and affect people individually and in the same way, but cannot be considered individual rights as in consumer rights). In these cases, the MPF brings public civil actions, collective civil actions or administrative impropriety actions.
Prior to submitting a case to the Judiciary, the MPF adopts administrative measures such as the opening of a public civil inquiry or a civil investigation, which are used to gather evidence over the existence or not of irregularities.
The MPF may also act as an inspector of the law whenever an underlying issue of public interest arises. In such cases, the MPF can manifest its opinion even though it may not be directly connected to the issue.
In criminal cases, the MPF is empowered to bring a public criminal action whenever the trial is being heard before a Federal Justice court, in the event of crimes against assets, services or interests of the Union, or any of its independent agencies or state companies. Such crimes include currency counterfeiting; smuggling; federal tax dodging; evasion of social security contributions; slave labour; formation of cartels; money laundering; illegal transfer of money overseas; banking frauds; international drug trafficking; Internet pedophilia; crimes committed by Internal Revenue officials, Federal Police officers or by personnel of any federal agency or department; environmental crimes, etc.
Federal prosecutors may investigate a crime through the Investigative Criminal Procedure within the scope of the MPF and may follow up on criminal inquiries conducted by the Federal Police. Furthermore, federal prosecutors may also conduct external control of police activities.
The MPF in São Paulo State
The Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) acts in all 27 Brazilian states. The state of São Paulo is the most populous in Brazil, with over 40 million people scattered in 645 cities and towns. The state covers 248,809 square km, an area larger than the UK. In addition, São Paulo is the state with the largest foreign immigrant population and has the largest Arab, Italian and Japanese communities in Brazil.
The MPF has 26 offices across the state of São Paulo and more than 113 prosecutors, being 47 in the capital city of São Paulo.
In 2007, the São Paulo Federal Prosecution Service handled 503,792 lawsuits.