The head of Brazil’s Olympic committee allegedly paid a US$ 2 million bribe to secure votes for Brazil. The allegations came as police revealed a nine-month investigation into the corruption behind the Olympic bid.
Brazilian and French investigators announced they had uncovered an international corruption scheme centered on awarding the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro.
The head of the national Olympic committee was accused of arranging a US$ 2 million to secure the games in the city, despite it having the worst conditions.
Federal Brazilian police said “there are strong indications” that committee head Carlos Alberto Nuzman had bought votes from fellow African members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in order for Rio to be chosen as the Games venue in 2009. Rio beat out Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid.
Police searched the headquarters of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the home of its president Nuzman as part of the nine-month investigation, seizing computers and documents.
Prosecutors said Nuzman was not arrested, but was detained to give testimony and had his passport confiscated. Authorities also issued an arrest warrant for Miami-based businessman Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho, who won lucrative pre-Olympics contracts from Rio’s government when it was headed by the now imprisoned state governor Sergio Cabral.
Authorities issued a total of 11 detention warrants in both Brazil and France as part of “Operation Unfair Play.”
“The IOC has learned about these circumstances from the media and is making every effort to get the full information,” its spokesman said.
“It is in the highest interests of the IOC to get clarification on this matter.”
Investigators accused Nuzman of uniting Soares Filho and Lamine Diack, the former head of track and field’s governing body and a voting member of the IOC at the time. They alleged that Soares Filho’s company, Matlock Capital Group, paid US$ 2 million into an account of Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack.
Prosecutor Fabiana Schneider said several construction and concession companies profited by bringing the games to Rio. She said the scheme was driven by the “criminal organization” of Sergio Cabral, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro who has since been jailed on separate corruption charges.
“The Olympic Games were used as a big trampoline for acts of corruption,” Schneider said.
Many large construction firms have been ensnared in Brazil’s sweeping “Car Wash” anti-corruption investigation, which has uncovered a huge web of embezzlement and bribery at top levels of politics and business. The firms admitted paying massive bribes to politicians and former executives at state-run companies in return for contracts.
The 75-year-old Nuzman was an IOC member for 12 years and was a prominent figure of the Rio bid for the games. He is part of the 2020 Tokyo Games coordination commission, which advises organizers in running the event.
Nuzman’s lawyer, Sergio Mazzillo, said his client was innocent.
For his troubles, Nuzman was awarded the “Olympic Order,” which recognizes people who have made great contributions to the games, by IOC President Thomas Bach.
Prosecutor Fabiana Schneider said that concession and construction interests would stop at nothing to bring the Olympics to Rio, as they stood to reap major profits. She added that former Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral was also a key figure in the scheme.
Economist Andrew Zimbalist, who authored the 2016 book “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” told AP that the revelation “is quite damaging” because “the IOC tried to say goodbye to Rio in August 2016, but the issues arising from the US$ 20 billion plus extravaganza won’t go away.”
Diack, his son Papa Massata Diack, and others were the subjects of a separate two-year French investigation probing allegations that they helped cover up failed drug tests and were involved in blackmailing athletes.
The Brazilian Federal Police released a statement saying, “Without [Nuzman’s] presence and the negotiation he established, the ingenious and corrupt complex relationship could not have achieved the success it did.”
“Nuzman was the agent responsible for bringing together interested parties, making contacts and oiling relationships to organize the mechanisms for transferring Cabral’s bribes directly to African members of the International Olympic Committee, which was effectively done by way of Arthur Soares,” the statement continues.
On Tuesday, the French Financial Prosecutors’ Office said that they had “uncovered the existence of a system of large-scale corruption organized around Papa Massata Diack,” noting there was evidence that IOC votes were “negotiated against payment to obtain city hosting rights for the biggest global sports competitions.”
The office wrote in a statement, “There are several consistent indications that payments have been made in return for the votes of IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) and International Olympic Committee members over the designation of host cities for the biggest global sporting events,” BBC reports.