KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Bidding scandal returned to haunt the Olympic movement today after Brazilian police raided the home of Carlos Arthur Nuzman and the local NOC offices over suspicions of vote-rigging.
Nuzman, according to local media reports, faces allegations of having bought the votes of members of the International Olympic Committee when it voted in October 2009 for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 summer Games.
The scandal will recall all too painfully for the IOC and its president Thomas Bach both the organisation’s own Salt Lake City scandal in the late 1990s and the FIFA World Cup awards farrago in December 2010.
In 2015 Bach told FIFA Congress how the IOC had cleaned up its act after Salt Lake; perhaps he spoke too soon.
Early this morning 70 officers of the Brazilian federal police raided 11 premises including the home of Nuzman and the offices of the Comite Olimpico Brasileiro.
Arrest warrants had earlier been issued for 75-year-old Nuzman as well as for a Miami-based businessman Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho (nicknamed ‘King Arthur’) and business partner Eliane Calvacante. The latter was arrested at home in Laranjeiras, central Rio, but the whereabouts of Soares are unknown.
Operacao Unfair Play is based on information which the French judicial authorities obtained from their pursuit of Lamine Diack, former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, and his son and associates.
Initially the French were chasing down allegations of Diack’s connivance with Russian sports officials over a doping cover-up. Their investigators were led them on down an electronic paper trail which took them to suspicious payments linked to the IOC’s award of the 2016 Olympics to Rio.
Shortly before the Olympics vote in Copenhagen sums were passed from Soares to Papa Massata Diack – son of Lamine and then an IAAF marketing consultant – and former track and field star and IOC member Frankie Fredericks. Papa Massata Diack allegedly received $1.5m and Fredericks $300,000 dollars.
Fredericks, who was forced to stand down as chair of the IOC’s 2014 Olympic evalation commission, has denied wrongdoing and said the payment was a business matter unrelated to the 2016 vote and the timing merely coincidental.
Nuzman, who has been ordered to surrender his passport, is also under investigation over a claim that he secured Russian citizenship and was granted a passport in exchange for his vote in 2007 to award the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi.
The courts have also been asked to freeze $320m in assets belonging to Nuzman, Soares, and Cavalcante.
Court documents accuse Soares of laundering money through companies and accounts in the British Virgin Islands, the United States and Antigua & Barbuda.
Brazilian public life has been dominated for the past four years by the Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal when millions of dollars were paid in bribes to politicians by major corporations including state energy firm Petrobras and construction giant Odebrecht.
Legal actions have been launched concerning a number of contracts connected to the hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as the Rio 2016 Olympics.
In June Sergio Cabral, former governor of Rio, was sentenced to 14 years in jail for accepting bribes in exchange for granting sports venue construction contracts.
These included the redevelopment of Maracana which hosted football’s 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics. Judge Sergio Moro told Cabral that the city of Rio was virtually bankrupt partly because of monies diverted out of the public purse.
Rio de Janeiro became the first South American city awarded host rights to the Olympic Games in an IOC vote in Copenhagen on October 2, 2009.
In the first round of voting Rio came second with 26 votes to Madrid (28) with Tokyo third (22) and Chicago (18) eliminated. In the second round Rio (46) led Madrid (29) and Tokyo (20) and triumphed in the third round over the Spanish capital by 66 votes to 32.
Subsequently Rio officials made little secret of their strategy of targeting African members of the IOC in pursuit of votes. Senegal’s Lamine Diack, as a long-serving IOC member and IAAF president, was highly influential in African Olympic circles.
He retired from the IAAF presidency in 2015 and faces criminal charges in France.
Rio 2016, the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and the IOC have yet to comment.