Brazil: Prosecutors Find ‘Olympic Corruption’ in Rio 2016 Game Planning

The Christ the Redeemer statue is seen through a set of Olympic rings in Rio de Janeiro
AFP/Jewel SAMAD

Brazilian prosecutors have uncovered a sprawling corruption scheme following a raid on the home of Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman, presenting mounting evidence that Brazil bought its way through the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) voters to secure the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

The accusations preceded a declaration by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot that former socialist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his successor, impeached president Dilma Rousseff, had built an organized crime operation using their roles in the government to secure kickbacks and bribes for themselves and their cronies.

Brazilian prosecutors have dubbed the Olympics investigation operation “Unfair Play” and accused Nuzman of leading a corruption scheme “of olympic dimensions.”

“It is undeniable that Nuzman acted fairly presently and expressively in the convincing of people to support Rio de Janeiro’s candidacy to host the Summer Olympics,” prosecutor Fabiana Scheneider said Tuesday. A prosecutorial team statement read that “there are strong indications that Nuzman directly participated in the buying of votes from IOC members in the election at the 2016 Olympic Games headquarters.”

According to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, Nuzman bought the votes with the aid of businessman Arthur César de Menezes Soares Filho, known as “King Arthur.” Prosecutors have issued 11 warrants in total, for both Brazilians and officials in Paris, where the IOC is headquartered.

Soares is believed to be in Miami, Florida, having evaded Brazilian authorities, while Nuzman is cooperating with authorities.

The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games were considered a major success of Rousseff’s socialist Workers’ Party (PT), as Rousseff herself strove to bring both the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup to the country. While heightening Rousseff’s international profile, the Olympics devastated Rio de Janeiro, which suffered a major fiscal crisis that left police stations without the means to buy toilet paper and created a situation that the state warned “can even cause a total breakdown in public security, health, education, mobility and environmental management.”

Thousands of Brazilians—particularly police, firemen, and other public personnel—took to the streets to protest the Olympics for funneling money out of their paychecks, schools, and infrastructure to entertain the visiting global elite.

Rousseff was subsequently impeached on unrelated charges, and her name has not surfaced as part of this investigation. Attorney General Janot revealed this week, however, that Rousseff and Lula are facing new charges of corruption related to an investigation known as “Operation Car Wash” (Lava Jato). Lava Jato uncovered a sprawling kickback scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras, where contractors would overcharge significantly on state projects, then hand some of the taxpayers’ funds paid to them over to the politicians who overcharged the people on the project.

According to Janot, O Globo reports, PT politicians including the two presidents have profited to the tune of 1.485 billion reais (nearly $500 million) in this scheme.

“Lula was the mastermind of the formation of this criminal organization, insofar as he negotiated directly with private companies the receipt of values to enable his election campaign for the presidency of the Republic in 2002,” Janot alleged. “During the course of his administration, he not only fulfilled the commitments made with them, but also acted directly and through [aide] Palocci, so that new illicit negotiations could be initiated as a way of generating greater collection.”

Among the contractors involved in this scheme is the construction corporation Odebrecht, which stands accused of bribing politicians throughout South America to secure state contracts for years.

Lula has already been convicted of severe corruption crimes and sentenced to 9.5 years in prison, pending appeal. He remains the most popular candidate in the 2018 presidential race and has begun a national unofficial campaign tour.

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