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Brazilian ‘Mensalao’ Banker Pizzolato Arrested In Italy

The former director of Brazil’s state-owned bank has been arrested in Italy, where he fled three months ago after being sentenced for corruption and money laundering.Mensalao banker Pizzolato

Henrique Pizzolato, former marketing director of Banco do Brasil, was arrested in the city of Maranello.

He was one of 25 politicians, businessmen and bankers sentenced last year in a big corruption trial.

Mr Pizzolato denies the charges and says the trial was political.

Reports in the Brazilian media say Mr Pizzolato was arrested in possession of a passport that belonged to a brother who died in a car crash in the 1970s.

Mr Pizzolato was arrested by a group of some 10 policemen in the flat of a nephew, who worked at the headquarters of luxury car makers Ferrari in Maranello.

He was taken to the Sant’Anna jail in the nearby city of Modena.

Argentine escape

Mr Pizzolato – the former marketing director of Banco do Brasil – was sentenced by the Supreme Court to 12 years and seven months in jail for corruption, embezzlement and money laundering.

Brazilian Federal Police says he fled over the border into Argentina in September, two months before the court issued a prison warrant against him.

From Buenos Aires, Mr Pizzolato flew to Barcelona in Spain and from there he travelled to Italy.

Mr Pizzolato was the only one of the 25 people convicted in the corruption trial to flee in order to avoid jail.

Others, including the former chief-of-staff of ex-President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Jose Dirceu, are serving long prison sentences.

The corruption scandal became known as Mensalao, or big monthly allowances.

‘Political motivations’

The Supreme Court found the Workers Party was 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.

The payments were made by key aides of President Lula, who took office in January 2003, in his first term in office.

But President Lula has not been implicated in the case.

After Mr Pizzolato fled, he said that he hoped to get another trial in Italy, free of media pressure.

“Unable to see a chance of having a trial free of political-electoral motivations… I have decided consciously and voluntarily to use my legitimate right to freedom to have a new trial in Italy, in a court that does not submit itself to corporate media impositions,” he said in a letter released by his lawyer.

Brazilian Justice Secretary José Eduardo Cardozo say he will ask for Mr Pizzolato’s extradition.

But experts say the request is very unlikely to be accepted by Italy, which does not extradite its citizens.

Mr Pizzolato has dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship.

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