Brazilian police arrested on Tuesday several former politicians as part of an investigation into a suspected corruption scheme surrounding overcharges in the renovation of a soccer stadium in Brasilia.
Local media reported that the operation included the arrest of an advisor to unelected President Michel Temer, Tadeu Filippelli, a former vice governor in Brasilia, as well as former federal district governors Jose Roberto Arruda and Agnelo Queiroz and seven others. Filippelli worked under Queiroz during his 2011 to 2015 term as Brasilia governor and became an advisor to Temer last year, days after Temer's predecessor was removed from office in an impeachment vote widely condemned as a parliamentary coup.
The investigation, known as Operation Panathenaic, probes suspected overcharges of US$280 million in the building of the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia in the leadup to the 2014 World Cup.
According to investigations, construction work at Mane Garrincha was budgeted at about US$180 million, but ended up costing about US$454 million, with former politicians expected of pocketing the overcharges as part of a fraud scheme.
Other cases of fraud linked to the 2014 World Cup are also under investigation, as testimony as part of corruption probes from executives of Brazil's largest construction conglomerate, Odebrecht, revealed suspected overcharge schemes in another five of the 12 soccer stadiums built or renovated in the lead up to the high-profile international soccer event.
The arrests come amid the fallout from a fresh corruption scandal rocking Temer's government that has prompted widespread calls for the unelected president's resignation or impeachment and early elections to choose a new president. Temer now faces investigations for corruption and obstruction of justice after an explosive wiretap recording caught the president endorsing bribes to ensure the silence of a powerful witness — jailed former speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha — in government fraud cases.
Temer has vowed that he will not step down over the scandal, saying in an interview with Brazil's Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, "I won't resign, oust me if you want."
The name of the operaction is a reference to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece, which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.