RIO DE JANEIRO – Two former governors of the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro were arrested Wednesday by order of a judge investigating them for electoral crimes, officials said.
Anthony Garotinho, who governed Rio from 1999 to 2002 and also is a former presidential candidate as well as an evangelical pastor and radio host; and his wife Rosinha Garotinho, who governed Rio from 2003 to 2007 and also was mayor of the city of Campos for eight years until January 2017, were arrested by Federal Police at their residences in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Campos, respectively.
The couple is accused of leading a criminal organization that illegally raised funds to finance their political campaigns and those of their allies in legislative and regional elections in 2010 and 2014 and in municipal contests in 2012 and 2016.
The charges against the Garotinhos, currently members of the conservative Party of the Republic (PR), include alleged extortion of business leaders.
Six others also are accused of taking part in the criminal organization, including Fabio Bastos, who served as government secretary in Rosinha Garotinho’s administration.
The two ex-governors were investigated several months ago in a separate vote-buying probe that led to Anthony Garotinho being detained on two occasions, but the key evidence in the new case came from the then-institutional relations director of Sao Paulo-based meatpacking giant JBS, Ricardo Saud.
As part of a plea arrangement, Saud told investigators in August that JBS had made 2.6 million reais (around $812,500) in illegal contributions to Garotinho’s unsuccessful 2014 campaign for the Rio governor’s office.
Saud said those funds were among the 20 million reais ($6.25 million) in illegal donations that JBS provided to the PR for its 2014 electoral campaigns.
The couple stands accused of bribe-taking, extortion, money laundering and electoral law violations.
Prosecutors said in asking the judge to issue the arrest warrants that the couple was still using the alleged criminal organization to intimidate witnesses and obstruct the investigation.
Anthony Garotinho was arrested in November 2016 on charges of vote-buying but was released two days later by order of a different judge.
In September of this year, Garotinho was detained once again by a judge who ordered him held under house arrest.
He also ran for president in 2002 as candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party, coming in third behind the winner, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and second-place finisher Jose Serra.
Another Rio de Janeiro governor – Sergio Cabral, in office from 2007 to 2014 – has been convicted of multiple charges of bribe-taking, money laundering and criminal conspiracy.
Cabral was sentenced to 14 years in prison in June and to 45 years behind bars in September.