RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — The Jewish president of the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee was arrested amid an investigation into a vote-buying scheme to bring the Olympic Games to South America for the first time.
Carlos Arthur Nuzman, who also is the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and an honorary International Olympic Committee member, would be a central figure in channeling $2 million to Lamine Diack, a former IOC member from Senegal who helped secure votes when Rio was picked as the venue by the IOC in 2009. Nuzman was arrested Thursday on charges of corruption, money laundering and participating in a criminal operation.
Three of the top officials of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee were Jewish. Leonardo Gryner, former chief operating officer, also was arrested Thursday on the same charges. CEO Sidney Levy, who managed a $2.2 billion budget, was Nuzman’s other deputy and is not under suspicion.
Brazilian authorities have said the behind-the-scenes dealings to win the vote amounted to a “criminal organization” led by Sergio Cabral, the former governor of Rio de Janeiro who has been jailed on a different corruption conviction.
Nuzman, 75, has tried to hamper the investigation by regularizing assets allegedly gained with illicit money, adjusting the amount of earned income on his tax returns by $600,000 since first being questioned by police last month.
One of Brazil’s most prominent sports figures, Nuzman is a former president of the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation and has been president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee since 1995.
“My connection with Judaism and with Israel is through sports,” Nuzman, who was part of the first Brazilian male volleyball team in 1964 when the sport debuted at the Olympic Games, said in an interview last year with JTA. “I started my career playing at the Brazilian Israelite Club and I have attended four Maccabiah Games in Israel.”
The grandson of Russian immigrants, Nuzman was born in Rio. His father, Izaak, presided over the Rio Jewish federation, the Hebraica Club and the local Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.
“He was one the greatest leaders of our Jewish community. He brought [David] Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir to Brazil,” Nuzman boasted, noting the late prime ministers of Israel.