By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Henrique Pizzolato, the former marketing director of Banco do Brasil, was arrested by Italian authorities in the city of Maranello yesterday. Pizzolato was condemned to twelve years and seven months in prison for corruption in the landmark mensalão vote-buying scandal in 2012 and had been on the run from Brazilian authorities since last November.
According to the press office of the Brazilian federal police, the operation to capture the fugitive mensaleiro also involved Brazilian authorities and was carried out in conjunction with Italian police forces. Pizzolato fled to Italy, a country of which he is also a citizen, before his arrest warrant was issued in September 2013. His name was on the International Police’s list of wanted persons.
Pizzolato left Brazil for Argentina last November, where he boarded a flight to Spain and drove by car to Italy. He was found in Maranello, where one of his nephews resides. Pizzolato had been closely watched by Italian authorities until his arrest yesterday. The disgraced Workers’ Party member was found with fake documents, including a passport that belonged to Pizzolato’s brother, Celso, who passed away in 1978. Pizzolato entered Italy with his brother’s passport, which he had altered to include his own picture.
The former marketing director of Banco do Brasil was convicted by Brazil’s Supreme Court for money laundering, embezzlement and bribery for his involvement in the mensalão scandal in the federal Congress between 2003 and 2005. The country’s highest court found Pizzolato guilty of approving the transfer of R$73 million available in a fund managed by Banco do Brasil to Marcos Valério’s advertising agencies. Valério is referred to as the “operator” of the mensalão in Brazilian media.
The process of extraditing Pizzolato, who holds dual citizenship in Italy and Brazil, has already begun. Brazil’s Attorney General, Rodrigo Janot, has translated the mensalão judgment and his arrest warrant. The documents will be sent to the Supreme Court and then to the Ministry of Justice and finally, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two entities that are in charge of contacting Italy. The Italian government will then choose to send Pizzolato back to Brazil or to try him in Italy.
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