SAO PAULO, Brazil
Outgoing Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella was arrested Tuesday for alleged involvement in a corruption scheme in city hall, according to authorities.
Three businessmen, a retired police chief and Crivella’s former campaign treasurer were also arrested. They were all charged with organized crime, money laundering and active and passive corruption.
Crivella, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, was arrested at his Barra da Tijuca home, in Western Rio, around 6 a.m. (0900GMT). Before entering the police station, he denied any wrongdoing and said he was a target of political persecution.
Asked about his expectations after his arrest, he replied, “Justice.”
Crivella, an evangelical pastor turned politician who is scheduled to leave office Jan. 1 after losing a reelection bid to his predecessor, Eduardo Paes, told reporters he did not know what was going on.
Crivella’s arrest comes nine days before the end of his term.
His deputy died in 2018 and the head of the City Council, Jorge Felippe, will assume duties while the mayor is in prison.
Mayor-elected Paes wrote on Twitter that his team will continue to work on the transition of power and revealed he spoke to Felippe and asked him to “mobilize municipal leaders in order to continue conducting their duties and serving the population.”
Brazilian media reported that during the campaign for local elections in November, Crivella repeatedly said Paes, the city’s mayor when Rio hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, would be jailed if elected because of other investigations.
The arrests are part of a police operation that results from an investigation that is partially based on a plea bargain testimony. The deponent admitted to laundering money for a group connected to Crivella, running a scheme in which bribes were paid in exchange for public contracts, prosecutors said.
Rio de Janeiro State Governor Wilson Witzel has been suspended since August from office after being linked to irregularities amid the fight against COVID-19. He is also battling impeachment proceedings that could give his job to his deputy, also under investigation.
Five former Rio State governors have been jailed in recent years amid corruption charges.
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