Brazil official arrested in tourism graft sweep

 BRASILIA,  (Reuters) – Police arrested Brazil’s deputy  tourism minister yesterday in a corruption sweep tied to  funding for major sports events, the latest in a series of  scandals to tarnish President Dilma Rousseff’s government.

Deputy minister Frederico Costa was among 33 tourism  ministry officials and entrepreneurs arrested in the operation,  federal police said. Tourism Minister Pedro Novais Lima was called to the  presidential palace to give explanations but will remain in  office for now, a palace source said on condition of  anonymity.

Rousseff has lost three cabinet ministers since May to  graft allegations and ethics scandals, including her chief of  staff.

Lima is a member of the PMDB, Rousseff’s main coalition  partner, which has been at odds with her since virtually the  start of her presidency on Jan. 1 and has partly blocked her  agenda in Congress.

The police believes millions of reais (dollars) in public  funds earmarked for professional training have been embezzled.  It will charge those arrested with fraud, embezzlement and  identity theft.

The Brazilian government is funding schools throughout the  country to train taxi drivers, waiters and hotel staff as the  country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016  Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The police raid is certain to fuel opposition attempts to  launch a formal congressional inquiry into recent corruption  allegations involving the federal government. Such an inquiry  would have far-reaching investigative powers.

Several ministers are expected to have to testify before  congressional committees over corruption allegations in coming  days, potentially further delaying Rousseff’s legislative  agenda. The president is also dealing with fresh corruption  allegations involving the agriculture ministry.

Several bills awaiting approval in Congress could boost  private investments, include a tax overhaul, framework mining  legislation and a regulation of oil royalties.

Brazil has already come under fire at home and abroad for  delays in infrastructure projects for the World Cup, including  airports, roads and soccer stadiums being built or renovated in  12 host cities.

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