Rio de Janeiro police arrest evangelical Mayor Crivella

Mauricio Savarese and Diarlei Rodrigues
Associated Press

Rio De Janeiro – Rio de Janeiro state police arrested outgoing Mayor Marcelo Crivella on Tuesday in connection with an alleged kickbacks scheme, yet another show of political turmoil in Brazil’s postcard city.

The evangelical pastor turned politician is scheduled to leave office on Jan. 1 after losing a reelection bid to his predecessor, Eduardo Paes.

Investigations earlier this year showed Crivella had close links to Rafael Alves, a businessman who was also arrested on Tuesday. Alves reportedly promised government contracts in exchange for payments, police and prosecutors said. Alves never held an official position, but his brother was the head of the city’s tourism office and he held frequent meetings with Crivella. Investigators alleged that Alves was the person who decided which companies would be awarded contracts.

Jorge Felippe, the president of Rio’s city council, will assume office while Crivella is jailed. Deputy Mayor Fernando MacDowell died of a heart attack in 2018.

Crivella, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, told reporters upon his arrival at the Rio police headquarters that his arrest is unfair. He also linked it to his alleged willingness to fight corporate interests and lobbyists.

“I am the mayor who most fought corruption,” Crivella said as he walked into Rio police headquarters.

Crivella repeatedly said during his campaign that Paes, who was mayor when Rio hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, would be jailed if elected because of other investigations.

Rio state governor Wilson Witzel has been suspended from office since August when one of Brazil’s top courts linked him to irregularities in the healthcare sector amid the fight against COVID-19.

Witzel is also battling impeachment proceedings that could give his job to another person under investigation, deputy governor Claudio Castro.

Five former Rio state governors have been jailed in recent years amid corruption charges.

Police officers arrived at Crivella’s home at 6 a.m., local TV footage showed. In September they also visited the mayor’s home and office to collect documents related to the probe.

The 63-year-old Crivella is a bishop of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, whose leaders are key supporters of Bolsonaro.

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Savarese reported from Sao Paulo.