Judge orders arrest of crime show host for ordering murders


A BRAZILIAN television crime show host, accused of ordering murders and then covering them on his show in order to boost ratings, is on the run after a judge ordered his detention on Monday.

The arrest warrant for Wallace Souza came after the state assembly of Amazonas last week stripped him of his mandate as a state deputy, which had brought with it immunity from prosecution.

From the jungle city of Manaus, Mr Souza, presented the popular Canal Livrecrime show which mixed graphic coverage of violent crime with denunciations of corruption and lawlessness among authorities.

The popularity of the show helped Mr Souza launch a political career and he was the most voted deputy in the state elections in 2006.

But his world began to unravel last October with the arrest of Moacir Jorge da Costa, a former police officer. Costa, who is accused of nine murders, told police that he worked for Mr Souza who had ordered a murder and then had his show cover it in order to boost ratings.

Investigators believe that Mr Souza tipped off his show’s camera crews about several murders in Manaus, that he had personally ordered, allowing them to show up at the scene before the police.

Mr Costa’s confession has since led to the arrest of another 15 members of what police said is a gang of drug-traffickers headed by Mr Souza, who now faces charges of murder, drug-trafficking, intimidation of witnesses, illegal carrying of arms and formation of a criminal gang.

At last Thursday’s congressional hearing to decide his future, Mr Souza, dressed in a white suit, appeared in his own defence denying all the charges against him.

He was nonetheless stripped of his seat by a vote of 16 to four and has since been expelled by his own Partido Popular party.

Among the alleged gang members already detained is Mr Souza’s son, Rafael, who was held following a raid on his father’s house in April during which police recovered large sums of cash, assault rifles and spent bullet casings which investigators believe might have been removed from crime scenes.

Police have mounted roadblocks in Manaus to prevent Mr Souza from fleeing after they failed to find him at home on Monday. His lawyer and family members tried on Tuesday to negotiate conditions with authorities for Mr Souza to turn himself in.

Despite the fact he never graduated from university, they asked that Mr Souza be granted the privilege given to Brazilians with a third-level degree to be held separately from the general prison population.

Francisco Balieiro, the presenter’s lawyer, told Manaus’s A Criticanewspaper that Mr Souza will surrender once he receives guarantees about his security in detention.

Authorities denied the request saying they would not negotiate with a fugitive. Mr Souza’s family denied any knowledge of his whereabouts or that he had committed suicide.