FIFA arrests spur Brazil to probe soccer corruption
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA May 28 (Reuters) - Brazilian police began investigating allegations of corruption in its soccer industry on Thursday, prompted by the arrests of top officials at world soccer body FIFA in a U.S. bribery probe.
And the country's Senate, led by former national soccer star Romario, who is now a prominent legislator, moved to open a formal inquiry into alleged bribes paid to obtain contracts with the Brazilian Soccer Federation (CBF).
"There is no other alternative. Either these guys all go to prison or they will continue sucking the blood out of Brazilian football until its final death," said Romario, who led Brazil's national team to World Cup victory in 1994 and has since become an outspoken critic of corruption in soccer.
Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo ordered federal police to investigate whether the alleged corruption at Zurich-based FIFA was practiced in Brazil, his office said in a statement.
Brazilian officials and executives featured prominently in the indictment released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice that named 14 defendants accused of crimes including bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.
Former CBF president José Maria Marin was among those charged and arrested, while José Hawilla, the Brazilian founder of sports marketing company Traffic Group, was named as a convicted defendant who had pled guilty to U.S. corruption charges.
Brazilian law enforcement officials said they were collaborating with the U.S. Justice Department. On Wednesday night, police raided the offices of a sports marketing company owned by Kleber Leite, the former head of Rio de Janeiro's Flamengo soccer club, and seized documents. Prosecutors said the details were secret.
The U.S. initiative, which led to arrest of seven FIFA executives in Zurich on Wednesday, was welcomed by Brazilians who are unhappy with the quality of their national sport and suspect moguls of enriching themselves. Continuación...