Brazilian police arrest former minister over $21.4 million stash of cash

Boxes and suitcases filled with money that were found by authorities at an apartment that was used by former minister Geddel Vieira Lima.
Boxes and suitcases filled with money that were found by authorities at an apartment that was used by former minister Geddel Vieira Lima.PHOTO: EPA

RIO DE JANEIRO (Bloomberg) - Brazilian police have jailed the alleged owner of a US$16 million (S$21.4 million) trove of money found at an apartment earlier this week in the single largest cash seizure in the country's history.

Geddel Vieira Lima, who served as a minister under presidents Michel Temer and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was taken into custody on Friday (Sept 8) after police identified his fingerprints in an apartment where several suitcases and cardboard boxes overflowing with money were found, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Police were also carrying out search orders in other locations connected to the former minister, including his mother's house, according to the statement.

Vieira Lima's lawyer wasn't immediately available for comment when contacted by Bloomberg. He hasn't spoken publicly about the case since the money was found on Tuesday in Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia.

Photographs of what police called a "lost treasure" of cash in local currency and dollars represented the latest twist in an ongoing corruption investigation that has already put several business leaders and politicians in jail.

Earlier this week, the nation's top prosecutor, Mr Rodrigo Janot, filed charges against former heads of state Lula and Dilma Rousseff for obstruction of justice. He has also charged the current President Michel Temer. All of them deny wrongdoing.

Vieira Lima was under house arrest since July on suspicion he tried to block investigations into the diversion of funds from a state bank. He wasn't using an ankle bracelet for monitoring, local media reported.

Vieira Lima resigned from his last job as minister last year following allegations of influence trafficking.