Bribery conviction of Rio 2016 organiser overturned. GETTY IMAGES

A Brazilian federal appeals court has overturned a 30-year prison sentence for corruption, racketeering and other crimes against Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games organising committee, on grounds of incompetence.

A federal appeals court in Brazil has overturned the conviction of Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the former president of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organising Committee. 

Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) from 1995 to 2017, and Sérgio Cabral, former governor of Rio from 2007 to 2014, had been found responsible for acts of corruption that secured Rio's selection as the host city of the Olympic Games.

Nuzman has always denied the allegations surrounding Rio 2016 and was accused of significantly and unjustifiably increasing his wealth during his tenure as head of the COB and laundering 16 kilos of gold hidden in a Swiss bank safe. In 2021, he was sentenced to 30 years, eleven months and eight days in prison for corruption, organised crime, money laundering and illegal financial transfers.

The new verdict was based on the incompetence of the judge overseeing the investigation. Among the reasons given by the court for overturning the lower court's decision was the fact that the judge at the time did not have the legal authority to decide the case.

IOC President Thomas Bach and Rio 2016 Organising Committee president Arthur Nuzman. GETTY IMAGES
IOC President Thomas Bach and Rio 2016 Organising Committee president Arthur Nuzman. GETTY IMAGES

"From the beginning, the judge was dealing with a case that was not within his jurisdiction," Nuzman's lawyer, Joao Francisco Neto, told the AFP news agency.

The judges of the Appeals Court of the 2nd Region ruled that the first-instance judge, Marcelo Bretas of Rio de Janeiro, did not have the authority to judge the case and therefore ordered the entire criminal trial to be reopened in the competent court.

The now octogenarian was sentenced together with Sergio Cabral (ten years and eight months) in November 2021. Cabral's sentence was also overturned on the same procedural grounds.

In other words, issues related to the prosecution process, such as the judge's excess of jurisdiction, rendered the verdict null and void, and thus the sentence falls, regardless of the substantive issues and evidence in the trial. In the case of a nullity due to incompetence, the case of the convicted persons is as if they had never been tried for the crimes. If the cases are not statute-barred, a new trial could be initiated.

Carlos Nuzman, Brazilian President
Carlos Nuzman, Brazilian President "Lula" da Silva and Governor Sergio Cabral. GETTY IMAGES

Sergio Cabral admitted for the first time in 2019 that he paid bribes in the Brazilian city's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. "I bought votes with two million dollars to secure the Games for Rio," said the former governor of Rio de Janeiro (Cabral) in a court hearing to ensure that the city of Rio would host the 2016 Games. Rio won the vote against Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago.

Now, not only has Nuzman's conviction been overturned, but Cabral's conviction in relation to these events has also been overturned. However, Cabral will remain in prison for other crimes, as he has been deprived of his liberty since November 2016 for offences that led to a sentence of more than 300 years for several other crimes.

The appeals court also overturned two other convictions against former governor Cabral for cases related to the now-defunct Lava Jato anti-corruption operation, which led to the imprisonment of dozens of businessmen and politicians, including the current president, Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, who also later benefited from the annulment of the judicial proceedings.