Brazilian prosecutors investigating allegations of vote-buying in Rio Olympic bid

The Washington Post

Prosecutors in Brazil allege that the head of that country's Olympic committee conspired with a wealthy Brazilian businessman to purchase the votes of International Olympic Committee members during the bidding process for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. O Globo, reporting from Brazil on Tuesday, says prosecutors are targeting Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Arthur Nuzman and Arthur César de Menezes Soares Filho , a wealthy businessman known as "King Arthur" in Brazil who also has lived intermittently in Miami, where he owns a sizable portfolio of luxury properties and businesses.

O Globo says a warrant has been issued for Soares's arrest. Nuzman, a former IOC member, will answer questions from prosecutors on Tuesday afternoon during a meeting at which he will surrender his passport. Police were seen removing suitcases, documents and a computer from his house, according to the Associated Press.

"I can confirm that he did not commit any irregularity," Nuzman's lawyer, Sergio Mazzillo, told reporters in Brazil, per the AP. "Unfortunately, this has created a media spectacle."

The investigation is part of the ongoing Operation Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), a massive anti-corruption probe in Brazil, and is being aided by officials in France, Antigua and Barbuda. Brazilian prosecutors allege that Nuzman helped secure the votes of African IOC members during the bidding process for the 2016 Olympics and that Soares laundered the money used to pay them off via a sophisticated scheme centered in the British Virgin Islands and using bank accounts in the United States, Antigua and Barbuda , according to O Globo.

As noted in a Miami Herald story from last month, Soares was a top government contractor in Brazil and the "right-hand man" of Sérgio Cabral, who served as governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to 2014 but was arrested on embezzlement charges last year as part of Operation Car Wash (he was sentenced to 14 years in prison in November). Cabral, then-Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes held a meeting with Soares in 2009 with the goal of authorizing him to bribe an IOC member for his 2016 Olympic vote, according to the Herald.

Investigators in France claim an offshore company tied to Soares and based in the British Virgin Islands was involved in two suspicious wire transfers totaling $2 million to the son of Lamine Diack, a Senegalese IOC member who was then president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The transfers took place three days before the IOC vote on the 2016 host city in 2009, and the money was transferred to a Russian account. On the day of the vote, the offshore company wired another $300,000 to an IOC committee member in a leadership role, according to Le Monde.

Rio de Janeiro defeated Madrid in a landslide for the right to host the 2016 Olympics, securing 66 of 98 votes in the final round of IOC voting, and Rio 2016 organizers have long denied any wrongdoing.

"Rio won the Games because it had the best project, both from the point of view of the organisation of Games and the legacy," a Rio 2016 spokesperson told the Guardian in March 2016. "Rio beat Madrid by a clear margin of 66-32 [votes], which excludes any possibility of a manipulated election."

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
64°