Brazilian police arrest lawmaker, two others in 2018 murder of Rio council member By Reuters

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By Fabio Teixeira and Ricardo Brito

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian police arrested three people on Sunday, including a prosecutor and a police chief, accused of planning and ordering the 2018 murder of Rio de Janeiro city council member Marielle Franco and her driver.

Justice Minister Ricardo Lewandowski told reporters

The arrest closes a six-year investigation that has revealed how organized crime has infiltrated Rio’s public sector.

The Federal Police arrested Congressman Chiquinho Brazao, his brother Domingos Brazao, a member of the Rio de Janeiro state court of inquiry, and police chief Rivaldo Barbosa, said Lewandowski.

The two brothers ordered the 2018 hit, while Barbosa – who became police chief the day after his murder – helped plan it and later worked to sabotage the investigation, a federal police investigation found.

“This research is a kind of x-ray of the way the armed forces and terrorists work in Rio de Janeiro and the way it is, let’s say, the connection with the political institutions and other public institutions,” he said.

The Minister of Justice considered that the case was closed, but said that the findings could lead them to solve other cases or reopen another investigation.

In addition to the arrest warrants, police served 12 search and seizure warrants. Bank accounts linked to those affected have been frozen, the minister said.

Four other people, including Barbosa’s wife and the former head of the Rio homicide investigation, will have to wear electronic wrist bracelets and are barred from communicating, Lewandowski said.

In a statement to reporters outside police headquarters in Rio, Brazao’s lawyer said his client is innocent. Chiquinho Brazao’s office and Rio police did not respond to requests for comment.

Franco and his driver Anderson Gomes were shot in their car after leaving a party on the night of March 14, 2018.

In 2019, two former police officers, Ronnie Lessa and Elcio de Queiroz, were accused of shooting Franco and his driver, and last year police arrested another suspect in connection with the case.

Queiroz, who is accused of driving the car used in the crime, and Lessa, who is suspected of firing the gun, made a deal with the authorities, Lessa providing information on who ordered the killing of Franco.

Franco resisted the demands of the Brazao brothers, Lewandowski said. Although Franco wanted to turn some of the land into houses for the poor, the Brazao brothers wanted to use it for business, said the minister.

Franco, 38, was black, openly gay and a progressive council member born in a poor neighborhood of Rio. Investigators have said they believe his murder was a political assassination carried out by paid agents.

A prominent member of the Socialism and Liberty party, Franco was an outspoken critic of police killings of Rio residents and his death sparked international protests by Brazilians affected by the violence.

Through tears, Franco’s widow, Monica Benicio, said Sunday that she was not surprised to hear of the Brazao family’s involvement in the case.

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