Rio Olympics chief sentenced to 31 years in prison for buying votes to secure 2016 Games

Carlos Nuzman found guilty of paying substantial bribes Lamine Diack and Papa Diack

File photo from 2017 of Brazil’s Olympic Committee chief Carlos Nuzman being escorted from his home by federal police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

File photo from 2017 of Brazil’s Olympic Committee chief Carlos Nuzman being escorted from his home by federal police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

 

The disgraced former head of Brazil’s Olympic committee has been sentenced to almost 31 years in prison for paying bribes to secure the 2016 Olympic Games for Rio de Janeiro.

Carlos Nuzman was convicted of money laundering, tax evasion and being part of a criminal organisation after a Rio judge found him guilty of paying bribes to the former Senegalese president of the International Association of Athletics Federations Lamine Diack and his son Papa Diack to swing votes behind Rio’s bid.

The scheme was revealed by former Rio governor Sérgio Cabral who said Nuzman told him the bribes would assure victory when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to award the hosting rights. Cabral, who governed Rio between 2007 and 2014, said he organised a US$1.5 million payment to the Diacks in return for six votes on the IOC. Lamine Diack later came back promising more votes for a further US$500,000. The former governor said he authorised the payments which were made through Rio businessman Arthur Soares after Nuzman assured him the scheme would work because Diack had a history of delivering votes for bribes.

As part of their case, prosecutors presented money transfer receipts between a company owned by Soares and one controlled by Papa Diack, who also wrote emails to Rio’s bid committee complaining about delays in payments. Cabral said nine of the 95 members of the IOC eligible to take part in the 2007 vote in Copenhagen to award the 2016 Games had been bribed. Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting after getting six votes less than Rio.

Among those Cabral said had traded their votes for cash were former Russian swimmer Alexander Popov, who won gold at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, and Ukranian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka, who won gold for the USSR in Seoul in 1988. Both deny the accusations. Another former athlete accused of involvement, Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks, was charged in France over a US$300,000 payment he received from Papa Diack on the day of the 2007 vote. He denied any wrongdoing, saying the money was for legitimate consultancy work.

In his sentence published late Thursday judge Marcelo Bretas identified Nuzman as “the principal mastermind of the illicit scheme”.

Corruption scandals

Cabral was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison for his role. Since his arrest in 2016 in an unrelated case he has racked up 20 convictions in various corruption scandals and is serving prison sentences totalling 390 years. Also convicted was Nuzman’s right-hand man Leonardo Gryner who was head of operations for the 2016 Games and businessman Soares, who has been on the run since 2017. The Games left Rio a legacy of tens of millions of euro in unpaid bills and a series of white elephant sporting arenas.

The 79-year-old Nuzman, whose 22-year stint in charge of Brazil’s Olympic movement was shrouded in controversy, will not start serving his sentence until he exhausts the appeal process. He denies any wrongdoing. He was briefly jailed in 2017 after police accused him of attempting to impede their investigations into the bribery claims by hurriedly rectify his declaration with Brazil’s tax authorities to include 16 gold bars held in a safe in Switzerland. He was released after surrendering his passports and suspended from the IOC where he had been helping organise the Tokyo Games.

The Diacks were convicted by a French court on unrelated corruption charges last year and both still face trial there for their role in the Rio bribery scandal. The two men are currently in Senegal which refuses to extradite Papa Diack back to France to serve a five-year sentence. They both deny any wrongdoing.

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