A doleiro is an illegal exchange trader. When Brazilians suffered daily with the rise of inflation, these ‘professionals’ helped secure their earnings by transforming then into valuable dollars. But, ever since, the country’s economy became stable, the doleiros gained the spotlight for their crucial role in corruption schemes.
Every middle-class Brazilian family in the 80s knew a doleiro. Brazil had a maxi-inflation that would make salaries and earnings disappear overnight. On payday, everyone would head out to the supermarkets to guarantee the day’s price. Markups couldn’t wait until the next day: supermarket’s employees could change prices at any minute.
Yes, a doleiro operated illegally. Only the Brazilian Central Bank and authorized operators can exchange currency. But these professionals were cheaper. In a time of profound crisis, anything goes.
They also helped travelers who needed to buy more foreign currency that what the rules allowed back then. Through doleiros, you could bend these rules a little bit and go on vacation with more cash at your disposal.
As the Brazilian economy became more stable, starting in the late 90s, fewer citizens used this kind of service. But that was far from being the end of the doleiros‘ reign.
Operation Car Wash brought them right back into the spotlight. Actually, the whole investigation was only possible because of the information that was given by Alberto Yousseff and Carlos Habib Chater, two of Brazil’s main doleiros.
Federal Police caught them in 2014 and from their illegal dealings Operation Car Wash discovered the frauds in Petrobras contracts. From their operations, the feds found the connections between the oil company, politicians, and contractors.
Doleiros help criminals hide money using, you guessed it, exchange dealings. They often own perfectly legal businesses and conceal the illegalities behind them. Another way in which they can participate in crimes is by operating accounts in fiscal paradises. This way, doleiros help money that could not legally enter Brazil be “washed” and reach its final destination.