Rio de Janeiro, June 6 (IANS) Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has denied having any knowledge of a vote-buying scheme to secure the 2016 Olympic Games for Rio de Janeiro.
In a video declaration to a federal court, he said on Tuesday that while he had asked certain African countries to support the bid, no agreements had been made and no bribes had been paid to his knowledge, Xinhua news agency reported.
Despite being in jail for corruption since April, the ex-president appeared as a defence witness in the case of former Rio governor Sergio Cabral, who is accused of leading a vote-buying scheme within the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
This was Lula’s first appearance since he began a 12-year-and-one-month prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.
Lula explained that he had participated in one meeting with the African Union, which represents 54 countries from across the continent, where he had asked them to support Rio’s candidacy but had offered nothing in exchange.
“There was no exchange (of favours). For Brazil to support Africa is a natural thing. I travelled 34 times to Africa, opened 19 embassies in Africa. This gives Africans almost a sense of brotherhood with Brazil. I fought for poor continents to have the right to hold the Olympic Games,” he declared.
The Brazilian prosecutor-general has denounced that various IOC members from Africa were bribed by an entrepreneur close to Cabral with $2 million embezzled from public funds.
Lula also defended the former president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, who was jailed last year in the same case.
“His attitude was always of great commitment to the Olympic Games and to Brazil. I saw no attitude that could have discredited Brazil or the Olympic Games,” commented the former leader.