Brazil, France allege Rio Olympics vote-buying Plot

French and Brazilian authorities said Tuesday they discovered an worldwide corruption strategy aimed at buying votes in awarding the 2016 Olympics. It’s the latest allegation to sully the heritage of the Rio Games, the first Olympics in South America.

The disclosures came as authorities in Rio de Janeiro raided the home of Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman. They emerged with suitcases, files and a computer. Police said detention warrants were issued for Nuzman and a member, businessman Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho, who police believe to be in Miami.

Nuzman left his home accompanied by his attorney and later appeared at a police station for questioning. He left a couple of hours later without commenting. Lawyer Sergio Mazzillo said his client would co-operate but “didn’t commit any irregularity.”

“Unfortunately, this has created a media scene,” Mazzillo stated.

In total, 11 detention warrants were issued for individuals in Brazil and France in what authorities dubbed “Operation Unfair Play.”

In a news conference, researchers said Nuzman, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, was a central player in purchasing votes for Rio’s Olympic bid in 2009.

Nuzman brought together Soares Filho and Lamine Diack, the former head of track and field’s governing body who at the time was an IOC voting member, according to authorities. Soares Filho’s firm, Matlock Capital Group, allegedly paid Diack $2 million to an account of Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack. Authorities said they’d “substancial” documentation of payments made through Caribbean accounts.

Several construction and concession companies stood to profit by bringing the games to Rio, prosecutor Fabiana Schneider said. She stated the “criminal association” of Sergio Cabral, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro that has been jailed on another corruption conviction, drove the plot.

“The Olympic Games were utilized as a major trampoline for acts of corruption,” Schneider said.

The IOC said it had “learned about these conditions from the media and is making every attempt to find the complete information.”

The 75-year-old Nuzman was an IOC member for 12 years and among the most prominent characters in bringing the games to Rio. He’s a part of the 2020 Tokyo Games co-ordination commission, which guides organizers in conducting the event.

Shortly after the Rio Games, IOC President Thomas Bach awarded Nuzman the “Olympic Order,” given to people who have made outstanding contributions to the Olympics.

Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio were candidates for the 2016 Olympics. The vote was held in 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, with Rio beating Madrid 66-32. Chicago, seen as having the best bid and many ready-to-go facilities, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Authorities said they could only confirm the purchasing of Diack’s vote, but even that could have had broad influence because delegations tend to vote in blocs. Diack is from Senegal.

“This is very damaging” to the IOC, said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist who recently wrote a book on fallout from the Rio Olympics. “The IOC tried to say goodbye to Rio in August 2016, but the problems arising from the $20 billion and extravaganza will not go away.”

In France, a 2-year-old investigation into corruption in sports came to light with the arrest in November 2015 of Diack. The French have been looking into allegations that Diack, son Papa Massata Diack and many others were involved in blackmailing athletes and covering-up failed drug tests.

The French Financial Prosecutors’ Office, which has been leading the questions, said Tuesday its investigations have “discovered the existence of a system of large scale corruption arranged around Papa Massata Diack.” Additionally, it said its evidence suggests votes by members of the IOC and the judgment track body were “negotiated against payment to attain city hosting rights to the largest global sports contests.”

Since the Rio Games finished a year ago there’s been a constant stream of accusations surrounding the awarding of construction projects.

Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes has been investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to ease construction jobs tied to the matches.

Paes, who has denied wrongdoing, is just one of dozens of top politicians implicated in a sweeping judicial corruption investigation where construction giant Odebrecht illegally paid billions to help win contracts.

When Rio was awarded the Olympics, it was widely renowned as a indication that Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, had arrived on the world stage. During the closing ceremony, Bach stated that promise was realized.

“All these Olympic Games are departing a special heritage for generations to come,” he said in the famed Maracana Stadium. “History will discuss a Rio de Janeiro before and also a far better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail