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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazilís Former House Speaker Arrested on Corruption Charges

RIO DE JANEIRO Ė A former speaker of Brazilís lower house of Congress who later served as tourism minister was detained Tuesday on suspicion of graft in connection with the 2014 soccer World Cup.

Henrique Eduardo Alves, who led the lower house from 2013-2015 before becoming tourism minister, was arrested at his home in Natal, capital of the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte.

The once-powerful politician is suspected of involvement in a scheme to overcharge the government by 77 million reais ($24 million) for construction of the Arena das Dunas stadium in Natal, the Federal Police said.

Alves was implicated by plea-bargain testimony from former executives of construction giant Odebrecht.

The stadium scam came to light in the course of the wide-ranging investigation of a $2 billion corruption scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.

The man who succeeded Alves as house speaker, Eduardo Cunha, is also a defendant in the stadium case and has been behind bars for months due to his role in the Petrobras mess.

Investigators say that the stadium contractors provided payoffs to Cunha and Alves in the form of campaign contributions as well as personal commissions.

As a congressional leader, Alves helped advance the agendas of Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who governed from 2003-2011, and Dilma Rousseff, both of the center-left Workers Party (PT).

In 2015, Rousseff appointed Alves tourism minister and he stayed on in the post when erstwhile Vice President Michel Temer became acting head of state in May 2016 pending completion of the congressional process that led three months later to Rousseffís ouster.

But Alves stepped down the following month amid corruption allegations linked to the Petrobras probe.

Despite his absence from active politics, Alves has remained an important figure in Temerís conservative PMDB party.

 

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