4 years later, graft taints 10 Brazilian World Cup stadiums
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Four years after the World Cup, Brazil’s massive corruption probes have cleared only two of the 12 stadiums.
The privately owned arenas in Curitiba and Porto Alegre have gone through other problems, though, along with management disagreements.
Here is an update on each of the stadiums used at the 2014 World Cup:
Former governor Sergio Cabral has been arrested for embezzling public funds originally designated for construction. One of those was the renovation of the 79,000-seat stadium in Rio de Janeiro used for the World Cup final.
A businessman told prosecutors he paid bribes to Cabral on behalf of constructor Odebrecht. A luxury ring worth an estimated $300,000 was allegedly a first installment of kickbacks for the renovation.
The stadium was redesigned again for the 2016 Olympics. In 2017, Rio teams avoided using the Maracana amid a dispute between the state government and the companies that run the stadium, including Odebrecht. The stalemate added to a debt of about $45 million the stadium administrators had with authorities.
The administrators say they were not allowed to demolish nearby areas to build bars, parking lots and other facilities, and they went to court to stop running the historic venue. This year, local teams decided to make the Maracana manageable at least on the days they play there.
The 49,000-seat stadium that staged the opening World Cup match in Sao Paulo is under investigation in the sprawling Car Wash corruption probe, which has led to the imprisonment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and many other politicians across Latin America.
Odebrecht owner Emilio Odebrecht said the stadium was a “gift” to Lula, a staunch supporter of Corinthians.
The final cost of the stadium has yet to be determined, with the club and Odebrecht at odds over who will pick up the tab. It could be up to $400 million. Corinthians chairman Andres Sanchez, who is also under investigation, says he wants a deal so Odebrecht can leave without charging a hefty sum because of unfinished work at the stadium.
Corinthians matches are frequently the most highly attended, rarely with fewer than 30,000 in the arena.
Executives of meat-packing company JBS said the reconstruction work at the 62,000-seat venue in Belo Horizonte was used to pay bribes of about $8 million to political campaigns of state Gov. Fernando Pimentel, who has had a shaky time in office due to corruption allegations that he denies.
The stadium is where Brazil lost to Germany 7-1 in the World Cup semifinals.
The Mineirao is the main stage for local giants Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro, but the latter has pushed forward with the construction of a stadium on the outskirts of the city, which could affect the arena’s worth.
Last May, two former governors of Distrito Federal were jailed in connection with the renovation of the state-of-the-art and rarely crowded 72,000-seat Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.
Agnelo Queiroz and Jose Roberto Arruda were accused by a former executive of constructor Andrade Gutierrez of receiving kickbacks for the construction.
A local audit court said the stadium’s cost was inflated by more than $30 million in the construction material alone. The final cost of the venue, which also hosts several Brasilia administration bodies and only a few soccer matches, goes beyond $450 million.
The stadium’s parking lot has been used by buses since the World Cup. On Thursday, the stadium had its best attendance in Brazil this year when 6,000 watched Flamengo beat Fluminense 2-0 in the Brazilian championship.
The 50,000-seat Fonte Nova in Salvador, where the Netherlands beat Spain 5-1, had a budget allegedly inflated by more than $35 million.
Brazil’s federal police say many crimes could be detected in the reconstruction of the stadium, including fraud, embezzlement of public money and money laundering. An ongoing probe accused former governor Jaques Wagner of being involved, which he denies.
After the original stadium was demolished, police said construction costs for the Fonte Nova were overcharged by an estimated $130 million, most of it used in political campaigns.
Local team Bahia, playing in Brazil’s top division, fills 60 percent of the stadium on average per game.
Brazil’s federal police say the 46,000-seat stadium in Recife had its cost inflated by more than $25 million.
A former executive said Odebrecht sought to build the new stadium one year before tenure was offered. A local audit court said in 2016 there were 21 irregularities in the stadium’s contract for construction.
The 26 kilometers (17 miles) separating Recife from tiny Sao Lourenco da Mata, where the stadium is, means few fans want to travel that far.
In 2017, a Brazilian Supreme Court Justice told prosecutors to investigate “the deal between companies of the Grupo Odebrecht and Carioca Engenharia” for construction work at the 67,000-seat Arena Castelao in Fortaleza.
Justice Luiz Edson Fachin said the agreement allowed companies to defraud the bidding process. The two companies denied any wrongdoing.
The total cost of the stadium was estimated at $160 million. Local clubs, none of which are in Brazil’s top division, struggle to pay seven percent of their attendance revenue each time they rent the venue.
Matches in Fortaleza usually don’t attract more than 10,000 spectators, so clubs prefer to use a smaller venue downtown instead of going to the Castelao on the outskirts.
ARENA DAS DUNAS
A former speaker of Brazil’s Lower House and Natal’s tourism secretary were jailed because of corruption involving the 32,000-seat stadium in Natal.
Henrique Eduardo Alves was accused of receiving bribes worth as much as $22 million that were used in political campaigns.
To do it they were helped, police say, by another former speaker who was already in jail, Eduardo Cunha. The investigation says Alves and Cunha blackmailed the two construction companies involved in the project.
The stadium cost about $130 million. Two years ago, its deficit was $10 million. Natal has no teams in Brazil’s top division and the Arena das Dunas sits mostly empty.
The firm Andrade Gutierrez, deeply implicated in Brazil’s Car Wash corruption probe, is trying to sell its 50 percent stake in the 51,000-seat stadium in Porto Alegre.
Chairman Ricardo Sena said he wants to avoid projects in Brazil, but it has a contract with soccer club Internacional for the next 16 years.
The Porto Alegre club, which just returned to Brazil’s top flight, has drawn its best attendances in recent years.
ARENA DA BAIXADA
The multiple blind spots in the 42,000-seat stadium in Curitiba weren’t fixed after the World Cup, but they are not its biggest problem.
An attorney for Atletico Paranaense, the arena’s owner, said the venue will be auctioned if the local government insists on charging debts of about $58 million, coming from government-sponsored loans to finish the stadium.
Attendance in the Arena da Baixada has also been below par since the World Cup.
Former governor Silval Barbosa said in plea bargain testimony that constructor Mendes Junior paid bribes amounting to three percent of the total value of the work, which rose from $90 million in 2010 to $170 million.
Barbosa said he and other prominent members received the kickbacks. The stadium is still unfinished. Cuiaba has no professional teams and stadium officials have tried to attract teams from other states.
Former executives of Odebrecht said in plea bargains that the stadium in Manaus had its costs inflated as well. A federal audit court said the cost of the arena had its prices overcharged by $25 million.
Since the World Cup, the stadium has accumulated a deficit of at least $6 million. It is being so little used that a judge suggested it could work as a temporary prison.
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