Carlos Arthur Nuzman, who brought the Olympics to Brazil, found guilty of corruption

The man who first brought the Olympics to South America was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison after a Brazilian judge ruled Rio de Janeiro’s success in securing the Summer Games of 2016 was based on a corruption scheme.

The verdict against Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the longtime former president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and once a dominant figure on the International Olympic Committee, came four years after he was detained by authorities in connection with a joint investigation into sports corruption by investigators in Brazil and France.

Nuzman, who also chaired the Rio 2016 organizing committee, was found guilty of bribery, criminal organization, money laundering and tax evasion in a decision released Thursday evening. Law enforcement officials who searched his home in 2017 found around $ 155,000 in cash and the key to a safe in Switzerland in which 16 gold bars were found.

Nuzman, 79, will appeal the verdict, his lawyer said. He will not have to serve his sentence until these remedies are exhausted.

The verdict, presented in a 50-page written judgment by Marcelo Bretas, a judge experienced in presiding over high-profile corruption cases, pointed to Nuzman as the linchpin of a ploy to buy the votes of sports officials in the aim to secure the hosting rights of the Games. Former Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral, already serving a 200-year prison sentence for a series of other corruption-related offenses, and Leonardo Gryner, a close friend of Nuzman who was also the former general manager of Rio 2016, were also sentenced to prison. terms. Arthur Soares, a Brazilian businessman known as King Arthur who is believed to have provided $ 2 million in bribes, has also been convicted.

“The guilt is high, because Carlos Arthur Nuzman was the main creator of the illicit scheme examined in these cases and therefore acted by taking advantage of the high position acquired for 22 years as president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which is why his conduct must be assessed more rigorously than that of any corrupt person, ”Bretas wrote in his ruling.

The court’s verdict is the latest reminder of how the Rio Olympics, billed as an exit party for South America’s most populous nation, ended up tainting Brazil’s reputation. The multibillion-dollar project was mired in corruption allegations that involved some of Brazil’s biggest construction companies even before it was revealed that Brazil may have only secured the hosting rights through the purchase voices behind the scenes.

“The convict has devoted his public career to making Rio de Janeiro the host city of the Olympic Games,” the judgment declared. “However, despite such social responsibility, he chose to act against morality and public property.”

The revelations in the case also cast an unflattering look at the International Olympic Committee. Throughout the preparations for the Games, he issued statements in support of Rio organizers as the news media increasingly scrutinized how the Games were being funded. He also ignored testimony from whistleblowers, some dating back more than a decade, that Nuzman’s conduct while leading the Brazilian Olympic committee deserved investigation.

“I am so moved today,” said Eric Maleson, a former member of the committee who had written several times to current IOC President Thomas Bach and his predecessor, Jacques Rogge, with details of the deeds. reprehensible actions of Nuzman. “I have tried everything to persuade the top officers of the IOC to intervene before this situation gets out of hand. But they never looked for me, they never called me.

“Maybe now they’ll call me and invite me over as someone who’s done the right thing.” “

Maleson was among the witnesses in Nuzman’s trial, which also included the introduction of emails between Gryner and Papa Massata Diack, a former IOC official convicted of corruption in France, discussing bank transfers in October 2009. Gryner and Diack, the son of a former head of the world’s athletics governing body, exchanged emails just after Rio de Janeiro overcame bids from Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to host the 2016 Games.

Perhaps the most damaging testimony in the case is that of Cabral, the former governor, who is serving a life sentence for fraud and corruption.

Cabral told the court the scheme to win votes through corruption was staged between Nuzman and Lamine Diack, a longtime Senegal Olympics broker and father of Papa Massata Diack. (Lamine Diack was convicted last year in a French court for receiving bribes related to several sports schemes.)

In his testimony, Cabral supported prosecutors’ assertions that Nuzman led the businessman, Soares, over public servants to pay, a list he said included sports legends and former medalists of gold like Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka and Russian swimmer Alexander Popov. Bubka and Popov both denied accepting bribes.

Cabral said the seeds for Rio’s victory were planted months before the vote, when Nuzman contacted him. “Nuzman came to me and said, ‘Sérgio, I want to tell you that IAAF President Lamine Diack is an open person for unfair advantages,” Cabral said of the meeting, saying reference to a former name of track director. body. “He can get five or six votes. In return, he wants $ 1.5 million.

The emails revealed difficult exchanges over late payments between Rio and young Diack. In a message sent to an official at the Brazilian Olympic Committee, on which Nuzman and Gryner were copied, Papa Massata Diack asked for assurances that the money would be transferred to bank accounts he controlled in Dakar or Moscow. The signature block in the email stated that Diack was writing from room 2112 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Singapore.

Maleson, who was ousted from his post as head of the Brazilian Ice Sports Federation after filing a complaint against Nuzman, also spoke to investigators from the United States, France and Brazil about a meeting he had with a member of the Rio bid committee before the vote. He repeated these allegations in court.

He said he had a chance meeting with a senior official linked to Rio’s candidacy in July 2009. As the men discussed the chances of the candidate cities, the official, Ruy Cezar Miranda, an assistant to the city’s mayor. , told him he had just returned from what he described as a successful trip to Nigeria before giving a hand gesture that signified to Maleson that a payment had been made.

The judge said he would send the results of the investigation to Senegalese and French authorities, where Papa Massata Diack and Lamine Diack live. They were among five officials sentenced to prison terms by a Paris court last year for their role in an extortion scheme that allowed athletes caught in the act of doping to escape punishment in return. silver.

Young Diack has also been linked with a slew of unrelated sports bribery schemes, including one linked to the awarding of hosting rights to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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