Former head of Brazilian aquatics confederation arrested

RIO DE JANEIRO — The former head of the Brazilian aquatics confederation was arrested on Thursday in a fraud probe that allegedly involved sports officials embezzling public funds.

Brazil's federal police said Coaracy Nunes, who led the confederation from 1988 until last month and has been serving as a member of the FINA ruling bureau, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro.

The confederation financial officer and the coordinator of the water polo division were also jailed. Police said another arrest warrant is to be carried out in the operation named "Clear Waters."

Investigators want to know how the confederation spent more than $15 million in public funds.

Police said in a statement there was evidence that aquatics officials took money for themselves instead of investing it in improvements for athletes.

"This sea of corruption sank Brazil's aquatics," prosecutor Thamea Danelon said in a news conference in Sao Paulo. "There was sponsorship to officials, not to the athletes. We heard champions that were upset with the way the confederation was being handled. They brought up the irregularities."

Federal prosecutors also opened another investigation into a contract of about $ 3.5 million between the confederation and the state-run mail company.

Despite an apparently high investment in swimming, Brazil didn't win any Olympic medals in the pool at the Rio Games. The only medalist linked to the confederation is a Nunes critic, marathon swimmer Poliana Okimoto, who won a bronze medal.

Prosecutor Danelon said the investigations began after Brazil's junior water polo team failed to qualify for a world championship in Kazakhstan in 2015.

Brazilian athletes have accused Nunes of corruption for decades. One of the leaders of the anti-Nunes movement, swimmer Joanna Maranhao, celebrated on social media.

"I cried in relief. You have no idea of how much I hoped for this," Maranhao wrote on Twitter. "This was not new for anybody. Those who shut up were accessories."

Maranhao was one of the 20 athletes and former athletes who cooperated with the investigation, police said.

Attorney Marcelo Franklin said Nunes' arrest was unfair.

"His term ended in March. He just went through brain surgery. This was unnecessary and will be reversed soon," Frankin said.

FINA said in a statement that it is in contact with Brazilian sports officials, who informed it that the case "is still in its investigation stage."

"Before any formal judicial decision is made, FINA will not comment on this matter," the statement said.

FINA's reaction is different from a recent one by FIFA. The football body's ethics committee provisionally suspended vice-presidents arrested on May 27, 2015, in a raid in Zurich.

The Brazilian aquatics confederation is in charge of swimming, water polo, aquatic marathon, synchronized swimming and diving.

Nunes has been suspended from office since March 23, but was still in charge of the confederation two weeks after his last term ended. New elections have yet to take place.


AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

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