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Brazil sports minister resigns amid graft claims

BRASILIA, Brazil, October 27 – Brazilian Sports Minister Orlando Silva, the man who was tasked with organizing the 2014 World Cup, resigned to face corruption allegations, one day after the launch of a formal probe.

Silva is the fifth member of President Dilma Rousseff’s government forced to step down in under five months after being accused of misappropriation of public funds.

He has been accused of involvement in kickback schemes through social programs funded by his ministry.

“I asked to leave the government. I am leaving the government to defend my honor. I leave having fulfilled my duties,” Silva said in a brief statement to reporters after meeting with Rousseff.

Silva, who has denied the allegations made against him, said the truth in the matter would eventually come out.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Gilberto Carvalho told the Brasil state news agency that the job would be filled by a member of Silva’s Communist Party of Brazil, which is an ally of Rousseff’s ruling Workers Party.

“That person would be an interim (minister). That is the likeliest thing,” the agency quoted Carvalho as saying.

“I indicated to the party that a step had to be taken,” Carvalho told local media, adding that Silva “showed maturity” by agreeing to step down.

Carvalho said a decision by Brazil’s supreme court on Tuesday to open a formal investigation into corruption allegations involving Silva had been a key factor in the request for his resignation, which was expected later Wednesday.

The Brazilian newsmagazine Veja has cited a former police officer who accused Silva of taking kickbacks of up to $23 million and channeling government money to NGOs linked to his party.

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Silva called the police officer, who had been in jail for a year, a “delinquent” and warned against what he called a modern inquisition in which people faced accusations without proof.

Rousseff, who took office at the start of the year, was compelled to launch an anti-corruption drive in July after several key members of her government were accused of corruption including her chief of staff Antonio Palocci, who was forced to resign in June.

Agriculture minister Wagner Rossi, transport minister Alfredo Nascimento and tourism minister Pedro Novais also were forced to step down amid allegations of graft and embezzlement.

Reports say Novais embezzled millions of dollars, paid a personal assistant with public funds, and charge that his wife used a legislative aide as her personal chauffeur.

Rousseff, who also forced her defense minister Nelson Jobim to resign in August after he criticized her government publicly, has nevertheless seen her approval rating jump to 71 percent.

The mounting scandals come as the country prepares for global scrutiny ahead of the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, in what Brazilians had hoped would offer a showcase for its development as an economic and political power.

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