Head of volleyball body targeted by Brazilian fraud probe

SAO PAULO (AP) — The president of the International Volleyball Federation is being investigated in his native Brazil as part of a wider fraud probe launched on Thursday.

Rio de Janeiro police and state prosecutors said in a statement that Ary Graça, who has headed FIVB since 2012, and nine other people are suspected of tax fraud, money laundering and identity fraud.

Investigators say Graça used money from a sponsorship deal between Banco do Brasil and the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation to pay for contracts with suspected shell companies in the city of Saquarema, outside Rio de Janeiro. Graça was head of the Brazilian body until 2014.

A former mayor of the city was also charged.

Police said those companies belonged to officials of the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation who had close connections with Graça.

Graca lives in Switzerland, where FIVB is based. The federation said in a statement it is “aware and surprised by the situation in Brazil,” adding both Graça and its general director Fabio Azevedo, who was also confirmed to be a target of the probe, “requested immediate action from their lawyers to clarify what is clearly a misunderstanding.”

“Both have strenuously denied the allegations made against them in today’s media coverage,” the statement said.

Saquarema, a calm beach city of 90,000 residents, is where the Brazilian national volleyball teams train before major events, including the Tokyo Olympics.

Police said the contracts were “for unrendered services, false subletting of commercial real estate and assets without financial backing” and were worth a total of 52 million Brazilian reals ($10 million).

The Brazilian Volleyball Confederation said in a statement that police showed up at their headquarters in Rio and at the training ground in Saquarema.

“According to the investigation, the confederation could have been a victim of its executives, which created false contracts to divert funds from the institution,” it said. “The current management of the confederation will fully cooperate with the investigation and, if there is proven financial damage, it will take every necessary measure to return those amounts entirely to the volleyball community.”

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