Former Brazilian minister jailed after being caught with US$16 million in cash

Senior leaders across the political spectrum and high-ranking businessmen have been investigated or convicted since the sprawling “Car Wash” corruption scandal broke in 2014

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 11:43am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 9:42pm

A Brazilian former cabinet minister was sent to prison on Friday after police found his fingerprints on suitcases bursting with more than US$16 million at a flat he used in the northern city of Salvador.

Federal Police arrested Geddel Vieira Lima, 58, and drove him to the Salvador airport en route to Brasilia, footage on the news site G1 showed.

The suspect was already under house arrest awaiting trial on obstruction of justice charges.

An arrest warrant stated that documents and testimony, along with the fingerprints, indicated that Vieira Lima was responsible for hiding the cash.

“Given the gravity of the situation,” Judge Vallisney de Souza ordered “the urgent necessity” of sending Vieira Lima to prison, given that house arrest would now be “inefficient”.

Police also arrested Gustavo Pedreira, head of Civil Defence in Salvador state, who was identified as a Vieira Lima “emissary” who had participated in money laundering operations.

The judge then ordered a search of the home of Vieira Lima’s mother, stating that there was a “great probability” that further evidence could be found there.

For years Vieira Lima was one of embattled President Michel Temer’s confidants. He resigned last year and placed under house arrest in July.

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The cash, stored in suitcases and cardboard packing boxes, was discovered on Tuesday during an investigation into fraud at state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal, where Lima worked under president Dilma Rousseff.

After 14 hours and with seven cash counting machines in action, police the stash amounted to more than US$16 million.

Until recently Vieira Lima served as a powerful ministerial-level aide to Temer, before being toppled in one of the many corruption scandals shaking the centre-right government.

Senior leaders across the political spectrum and high-ranking businessmen have been investigated or convicted since the sprawling “Car Wash” corruption scandal broke in 2014.

The investigation centred on Petrobras, where inflated construction contracts were used by business leaders and politicians to siphon off billions of dollars.

That probe led to several other cases of corruption, tainting Brazilians across the political spectrum including Temer.