Latin America & Caribbean

Fugitive Brazil banker Pizzolato faces extradition

A view of the Italian Court of Cassation headquarters in Rome on 11 February 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The Court of Cassation in Rome ruled that Henrique Pizzolato should be extradited to Brazil

Italy's highest court has ruled that fugitive Brazilian banker Henrique Pizzolato should be extradited to Brazil.

Pizzolato, who has dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship, had fled to Italy to avoid a 12-year jail sentence.

He was sentenced for corruption and money-laundering as part of the Mensalao trial, one of Brazil's biggest political corruption scandals.

Brazilian media said Interpol had issued an arrest warrant for Pizzolato.

Brazilian victory

Pizzolato was arrested in the small northern Italian town of Maranello in February 2014 for carrying a false passport.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The extent of the Mensalao scandal shocked Brazilians and triggered marches against corruption

He was released in October after a court in Bologna decided he should not be extradited to Brazil because his safety could not be guaranteed in a Brazilian prison.

The appeals court in Rome overturned that decision on Thursday, in a decision seen as a victory for the Brazilian government.

Both the Brazilian Justice Minister and the country's prosecutor general had pushed for Pizzolato's extradition.

The Italian Justice Minister now has 20 days to decide whether to act on the judicial advice.

Escape

Pizzolato was convicted in Brazil in 2012, but was allowed to remain free while he appealed against the verdict.

Brazilian police believe he left the country while the appeal was under way, as he could not be located when officers came to arrest him after his sentence was confirmed and his arrest warrant issued.

His lawyer later released a letter from his client saying he had fled to Italy "in the hope of getting another trial there, free of media pressure".

Pizzolato also said his trial was politically motivated and denied the charges.

Pizzolato was one of more than two dozen politicians, businessmen and bankers convicted in the Brazilian political corruption trial known as Mensalao, which means big monthly allowance in Portuguese.


Mensalao trial

•One of the biggest political corruption scandals in Brazil's recent history

•Public funds were used to buy political support for the government of then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and to pay off debts from election campaigns

•Central accusation was that politicians from coalition parties were given large payments each month to support the minority government led by the Workers' Party

•Nearly caused the Lula administration to collapse


The Supreme Court found that politicians from the Worker's Party were making regular payments to members of the governing coalition in exchange for their support in Congress.

The scheme used funds from government bodies, such as Banco do Brasil, for which Pizzolato worked.

Pizzolato was the only one of those found guilty and sentenced to jail terms in the Mensalao trial who did not turn himself in.

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