The outgoing mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, an ally of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, was arrested and charged with corruption.
Four cars full of police and prosecutors arrived at the mayor’s house, in the upscale neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca, before 6 am.
Subsequently, prosecutors filed charges of corruption against Crivella and 25 others, saying in a statement that wiretapping, apprehensions, testimony from witnesses and collaborators revealed “a well-structured and complex criminal organization led by Crivella who has served in the city since 2017” .
The arrest comes days before Crivella’s term ends and a few weeks after the deeply unpopular mayor – a gospel singer who called homosexuality a “terrible evil” and avoided carnival – was defeated in the mayoral election by one of his predecessors, Eduardo Paes.
Crivella is an evangelical bishop and a former senator, who served as Minister of Fisheries in the Dilma Rousseff government. He is the nephew of Edir Macedo, who founded the powerful evangelical church Universal Church of God. Mauro Macedo, cousin of Edir Macedo and former campaign treasurer for Crivella, was also accused and arrested.
“This is a political persecution,” Crivella told reporters as he arrived at police headquarters. “It was the government that most fought corruption”. He hoped for justice, he said. The police also arrested businessman Rafael Alves, the mayor’s “trusted man”, who held a position at the city hall but had no official role, said the G1 website – Alves’ brother Marcelo was the head of tourism in Rio Former policeman and councilor Fernando Moraes was also arrested, G1 said.
Prosecutors began investigating a “business desk” that allegedly operated within the city hall in 2019, O Globo reported in December 2019, after money changer Sérgio Mizrahy signed a plea bargain. He claimed that bribes were paid to sign contracts with the city and pay the outstanding debts.
In the records authorizing the arrests, Judge Rosa Guita said that prosecutors had described Crivella as “the head of a criminal organization in which the other accused participated, installed within the scope of the Rio de Janeiro city hall with the objective of obtaining illicit gains in most varied forms ”.
Prosecutors showed that Alves operated schemes that Crivella knew, authorized and benefited from, Guita wrote. “The crimes were committed permanently during the four-year term, with fraudulent contracts and bribes received in the most diverse sectors of the administration,” she wrote.
The last months of Crivella’s administration have been tumultuous. In September, an investigation by TV Globo found that city officials known as “tutors of Crivella” were paid to stay outside hospitals and prevent citizens from complaining about health. Crivella said there was no basis for the charges.
But for the suffering residents of Rio, the news that another politician had been arrested was not surprising. Former Rio governor Sérgio Cabral is serving a prison sentence for corruption. His successor Luiz Fernando Souza – known as “Pé Grande” – was released from prison a year ago. The last governor of Rio, Wilson Witzel, was suspended for alleged grafting related to Covid-19 in August. He denied the charges. “Like other governors, I am being used politically, possibly,” he said at the time.
Crivella’s arrest was a blow to Bolsonaro, whose family home is in Rio. Bolsonaro won the 2018 election on an anti-corruption platform and supported Crivella’s reelection attempt in a video the two men recorded together. The two men danced together on the stage of an evangelical Christian event in Rio last February.