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Brazilian Police Arrest Former Minister After Discovering 'Bunker' Filled With Millions in Cash
09/08/2017 - 15h15
JOÃO PEDRO PITOMBO
The Federal Police arrested former minister Geddel Vieira Lima (PMDB), who covered his face with a folder as he was being escorted out of his apartment in Salvador, Bahia.
He had been on house arrest up until a "bunker" containing R$ 51 million (US$ 16.5 million) in cash was discovered.
The minister was last seen en route to the airport and from there he will fly to Brasília.
Initially, Vieira Lima will be held in a Federal Police cell, but may later be transferred to a cell in the Papuda penitentiary complex.
Passersby applauded and drivers honked their horns as the former minister drove off in the backseat of a police car.
Vieira Lima's defense has yet to issue a statement or even pick up the phone ever since the "bunker" with R$ 51 million in cash (US$ 16.5 million) was discovered.
Up until the discovery, his attorney had denied any wrongdoing.
The Federal Police arrived in two vehicles at the ex-minister's building in the neighborhood of Jardim Apipema, Salvador, at approximately 5:40am.
The police also had a warrant to search his mother's apartment, which is in the same building. The police took approximately one hour before leaving the premises.
Gustavo Ferraz, a former aide of Vieira Lima's who currently heads the Office of Civil Defense in Salvador, was also arrested.
All told, three search and seizure warrants were carried out. The arrest warrant was issued in an effort to avoid "the destruction of crucial evidence required to establish the facts".
The arrest warrant (which was requested by the Federal Police, and endorsed by the Federal Public Ministry) was carried out after the Federal Police encountered a "bunker" in Salvador attributed to the former minister, containing R$ 51 million (US$ 16.5 million) in cash that had been stashed in boxes and suitcases.
Both the former minister and Mr. Ferraz's fingerprints were found on the scene.
Vieira Lima had been on house arrest since July 12th. He was charged with obstruction of justice and arrested on July 3rd, but was granted habeas corpus and managed to get out of jail.
The operation that led to the discovery of the bunker was dubbed "Lost Treasure" and is a ramification of another operation called "Cui Bono", which is investigating fraudulent loans made by federal bank Caixa. The operation is currently in its 4th phase.
Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON
|Handout picture released by Brazil's Federal Police showing bags and boxes with Brazilian currency seized in a flat used by former minister of President Michel Temer, Geddel Vieira Lima to store money from corruption activities, in Salvador|