PARIS, France, Dec 6 – Rio de Janeiro made history in 2009 when the Brazilian beach paradise became the first city in South America selected to host an Olympics.
But eight years later, evidence is emerging tainting that triumph with suspicion.
The information is surfacing, in part, because one scandal is leading to another. Two years ago, Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack, the then president of the world athletics governing body (IAAF), emerged into the spotlight in the scandal over a coverup of Russian doping.
Now the 52-year old Senegalese, who worked as a marketing consultant for the IAAF, is in the sights of French and Brazilian investigations into Rio’s Olympics.
In September, the Brazilians launched an anti-corruption operation named “Unfair Play”, and emails they have seized — seen by AFP — add to suspicions over the Rio bidding.
French justice is involved because some of the money might have been laundered in its jurisdiction.
In June 2016, French financial prosecutors interviewed Eric Walther Maleson, a former Brazilian IOC member, who pointed the finger at Carlos Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) and leader of the Rio bid, saying that bribes had been paid to secure the Olympic Grail.
But Maleson, who has grudges against Nuzman, “did not seem to know about the movements of money”, said a source close to the investigation.
Even so, French investigators did unearth two payments totalling $2 million (1.7m euros) that landed on September 29, 2009, three days after the Rio vote, in accounts owned by Papa Massata Diack, or one of his companies in Moscow and Dakar.
The money came from a company, Matlock Capital, behind which was a Brazilian businessman, Arthur Soares.
“King Arthur” was known as someone close to the former Rio governor Sergio Cabral, who is now serving 14 years for corruption.
Approached by AFP, Papa Massata Diack, who lives in Dakar where French justice cannot touch him, did not answer why Matlock had sent him the money.
– ‘Embarrassments’ –
One thing is clear: before and after the vote in Copenhagen, in which Rio beat Madrid by 66 votes to 33 in the third round, Papa Massata Diack had exchanges with the Rio bid team.
These include several emails seized by Brazilian investigators. Among the recipients of these messages are Nuzman and Leonardo Gryner, the head of marketing for the COB.
Diack sent several reminders that he was awaiting payments, including an email to the office of the COB president on December 19, 2009 which mentions a sum of 450,000 euros “as per my agreements/correspondence with Leonardo Gryner”.
Two days later he wrote directly to Nuzman to ask for his help because: “we have faced from our side all kind of embarrassments from people who have entrusted our committment in Copenhagen”.
On January 6, 2010 he sent thanks for the arrival of payments of $50,000 and $60,000 to an account in Dakar but said he was still awaiting the balance of $340,000.
In the Brazilian indictment, Gryner says he was introduced to the younger Diack by Lamine Diack at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin, and instructed to deal with the son.
This story is supported by a series of emails between Gryner and Papa Massata Diack over Brazil’s willingness to produce sponsors for the first three seasons of the IAAF’s planned Relays Challenge from 2010 to 2012.
In the end, the event did not begin until 2014 and was held three times in the Bahamas.
In Brazil, Nuzman, Gryner and Cabral have been charged for their roles in a web of corruption, while the Diacks were named in the indictment.
In France, the affair has already caught up with Frankie Fredericks, who was behind a company, Yemi Limited, which on October 2, 2009 received a payment of $299,300 from one of Papa Massata Diack’s companies, Pamodzi Consulting.
Fredericks, a Namibian former Olympic sprint medallist, was a scrutineer at the vote in Copenhagen but has since resigned from both IOC and IAAF posts.
Investigators also found that on the day of the vote, Pamodzi moved around $130,000 to jewelry shops in Paris.