June 6, 2017 / 10:55 AM / in 4 months

Brazil police arrest former minister in World Cup stadium probe

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Police on Tuesday arrested a former Cabinet minister in a probe into corruption in the construction of a soccer stadium in northeastern Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

In a statement, police said they were serving five arrest warrants, 22 search-and-seizure warrants and bringing in six people for questioning, without disclosing the names of the targets.

A police source told Reuters that Henrique Eduardo Alves, a former tourism minister, was among those targeted by the arrest warrants. Former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is in prison, also fell under the scope of investigation, the source added.

There was no immediate response to calls for comment from representatives for Alves and Cunha.

Last June, Alves resigned as President Michel Temer’s tourism minister after accusations that he had taken bribes.

A prominent lawmaker, he was speaker of the lower house of Congress between 2013 and 2015

The Arena das Dunas stadium in the city of Natal is the seventh of 11 stadiums used in the 2014 World Cup to come under scrutiny as the country’s largest-ever graft probe widens to encompass more prominent political figures and executives.

According to the police statement, contracts for the construction of the stadium were inflated by a total of 77 million reais ($23.4 million) to fund bribes to lawmakers.

The case could heighten pressure on Temer, who faces calls for his ouster after he was caught on tape allegedly condoning bribes to silence a key witness in the sweeping three-year-old corruption investigation, known as Operation Car Wash.

Late on Monday, police sent Temer a list of 84 questions related to the allegations. He has 24 hours to answer.

His administration is being threatened by an electoral court trial starting on Tuesday over the alleged use of illicit money to fund former President Dilma Rousseff’s 2014 election campaign. Temer was Rousseff’s vice-presidential running mate.

($1 = 3.30 reais)

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Bruno Federowski; Editing by W Simon

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