Brazil’s Federal Police arrested Coaracy Nunes, the former president of the nation’s swimming federation, this week as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of public funds.
Those allegations have been ongoing in Brazil since at least last fall. Brazil’s Federal Police and Federal Public Ministry have alleged overbilling, diverted public funds and embezzlement within Brazil’s national swimming federation, the CBDA. Most of those allegation fell on Nunes, the president of the CBDA, who was subsequently removed from his post in October. Nunes has since argued that the allegations were a political tactic meant to torpedo his chances for reelection this year. Nunes had served as CBDA president since 1988.
But now ESPN Brazil reports that Nunes has been arrested along with two others: the CBDA’s financial director Sergio Ribeiro and water polo technical coordinator Ricardo Cabral. The ESPN report also says the Federal Police are searching for another suspect, specifically naming Ricardo de Moura as Nunes’ “right-hand man” within the federation. The arrest warrants are part of an investigation to determine how about 40 million Brazilian real (roughly $12 million in U.S. dollars) were used by the CBDA.
Update: A report from Brazil’s UOL sports department includes documents it says were submitted to Brazil’s Ministry of Sports from the CBDA. The documents show the CBDA buying 1,265 million (roughly $400 million in U.S. dollars) real worth of products from an organization called “Pro Swim.” That invoice includes 6 backpacks that cost 690 real ($219 U.S.) each. UOL reports that online retailers show the same exact backpacks being sold for half the price. Among the other items listed on the invoice: 4 boat engines for about five times what UOL reports the online price to be, 20 medicine balls for three times UOL’s listed market price and a folding stretcher for about three times UOL’s listed market value.
The UOL report also claims the “Pro Swim” organization is registered under an address in Sao Paulo that currently houses a pet shop. UOL was able to call the store and a clerk answered, identifying the organization as “Pro Swim” but refusing to speak with the reporters further.
Nunes’ arrest caused waves across Brazil’s swimming landscape. The CBDA’s lawyer, Marcelo Franklin, called the arrest of Nunes “irresponsible,” noting that Nunes had recently undergone brain surgery. He also expressed confidence that the case against Nunes would be overturned.
Gustavo Licks has been appointed to lead the CBDA while the matter is sorted out. He tried to assure athletes and coaches that the investigation wouldn’t affect the swimming federation’s calendar. Last fall, the CBDA suspended payment to all of its employees and canceled all of its national championship events, but quickly reversed course and eventually held those national championship meets in late 2016.
National swimming hero Cesar Cielo spoke on the ongoing controversy Thursday, saying that swimming “is taking one hit after another.” Cielo said Nunes arrest wasn’t unexpected, and said Brazilian athletes would like to have a voice in the national federation and expressed hope that the federation could be reformed under whatever president takes over next.