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Brazilian Olympic president Carlos Nuzman arrested in vote-buying investigation

Olympic Sports

The president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee was arrested Thursday amid an investigation into a vote-buying scheme to bring the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.

Carlos Nuzman, who is also an honorary International Olympic Committee member, was held for questioning last month by Brazilian and French authorities. They said he was a central figure in channeling $2 million to Lamine Diack, a former IOC member from Senegal who helped secure votes when Rio was picked for the Games in 2009.

Brazilian authorities have said the behind-the-scenes dealings to win the vote amounted to a "criminal organization," led by Sergio Cabral, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro who has been jailed on a different corruption conviction.

Securing the Games for Rio was just the first step in the massive scheme, according to Nuzman's arrest order. The Olympics led to massive public investment in infrastructure projects and services contracts, opening a pipeline of money that was used to reward friends and allies and pay bribes.

Authorities said Nuzman would be held because investigators found he tried to hamper the investigation by regularizing assets likely gained with illicit money. About two weeks after being held for questioning, Nuzman amended his tax declaration to add about $600,000 in income, the order said.

"He clearly acted to obstruct the investigation," said the order, adding that the lack of a clear origin of the extra money "indicated it was illicit."

Investigators said they also recovered a key they believed was for a safe in Switzerland containing gold.

The International Olympic Committee announced on Friday it has suspended Nuzman. The Brazilian Olympic Committee, which Nuzman leads as president, has also been provisionally suspended and had its funding frozen. The decisions came after an emergency meeting by the IOC's executive board.

In Nuzman's past 10 years as Brazilian Olympic Committee president, his net worth increased 457 percent, according to investigators. Nuzman, 75, was one of the most prominent figures in bringing the Games to Rio.

His lawyer, Nelio Machado, told news portal G1 that being detained like this was "harsh and unusual."

Prosecutor Fabiana Schenider said she was surprised by the attempts to obstruct the investigation but that the machinations would not thwart justice.

"We are showing that Brazil is no longer a paradise for corrupt people, for thieves," she said. "We are getting to people who never thought they would have to answer for their actions."

Leonardo Gryner, director-general of operations for the organizing committee, was also arrested on Thursday.

"The IOC's Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer has asked the Brazilian authorities for full information in order to proceed with the IOC's investigation, and has offered the IOC's full cooperation," the IOC said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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