ZURICH (AP) — After being arrested in Rio de Janeiro and accused of storing gold bars in Switzerland, Brazilian Olympic Committee president Carlos Nuzman was suspended by the IOC on Friday.
The decision came hours after Brazilian authorities investigating a 2016 Olympic vote-buying case asked for help from prosecutors in Switzerland.
The Brazilian Olympic Committee was also provisionally suspended and had its funding frozen. The world Olympic body also further cut ties with the Nuzman-led Rio Games organizing committee which still has unpaid debts.
Nuzman, a 75-year-old lawyer, was also removed from the IOC’s panel overseeing preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee announced the decisions after an emergency conference call of its executive board. The IOC said its decision will not affect Brazilian athletes, who will continue to receive scholarship funds and be eligible for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Nuzman was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of obstructing investigators from Brazil and France, who detained and questioned him one month ago. Their case explores suspicious payments linked to how the city won the hosting rights for the Olympics.
Brazilian prosecutors revealed on Thursday they believed Nuzman stored 16 bars of gold in a depository in Geneva and greatly increased his wealth while overseeing the Rio bid and organizing committees.
The office of Switzerland’s attorney general said on Friday it was “analyzing” a request from Brazil for legal assistance.
“The request has been transferred from the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) to the (attorney general’s office) as the competent authority for execution,” the federal office said in a statement.
Brazilian prosecutors have implicated Nuzman in a bribery scheme of at least $2 million to help win votes from IOC members, who chose Rio as host city in 2009 in a four-city contest. The losers were Chicago, supported by then-President Barack Obama, Madrid and Tokyo.
Nuzman is believed to be a central figure in channeling at least $2 million of a Brazilian businessman’s money to Lamine Diack, a former IOC member from Senegal who helped control African votes.
Diack has been arrested in France as part of a wider case of alleged corruption while he was president of the IAAF, including blackmailing athletes to cover up doping cases.
The French case has also implicated four-time Olympic sprint medalist Frank Fredericks of Namibia. He was an IOC executive board member in October 2009 when he got a $300,000 payment linked to Brazil and the Diack family on the day Rio won.
On Thursday, Brazilian authorities said Nuzman’s net worth increased by 457 percent in his last 10 years as the country’s Olympic leader.
Nuzman was arrested because investigators found he tried to hamper the investigation by regularizing assets likely gained with illicit money. Last month, he allegedly amended his tax declaration to add about $600,000 in income.
Nuzman’s lawyers said he denies wrongdoing, and the IOC said he had the presumption of innocence while its ethics commission studies the case.
Suspending Nuzman and removing him from Tokyo work was recommended on Thursday by Ban Ki-Moon, the former United Nations secretary general who the IOC announced last month would chair its panel scrutinizing unethical conduct.
Ban noted the “the gravity and urgency of the situation and its impact on the reputation of the IOC,” which published the document.
The IOC board chaired by President Thomas Bach approved Ban’s suggested sanctions on Friday, and added others, in a further sign of frustration with Rio organizers since the troubled Summer Games ended 14 months ago.
Bach rebuffed Nuzman’s request in July for another cash handout to pay creditors who are owed tens of millions of dollars by the Rio organizing committee.
The IOC repeated on Friday it “closed all its obligations with the organizing committee in December 2016.”
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