Leading Rio mayoral candidate denies criminal probe


Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

The evangelical leading in Rio de Janeiro's mayoral election denied a magazine report Saturday that he was arrested a quarter century ago for making armed threats in a property dispute.

The report in Veja magazine, accompanied by black and white police photographs of Marcelo Crivella, could embarrass the conservative candidate who is a bishop in the wealthy Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

According to the report, Crivella led a group of armed men in January 1990 to threaten and force out a family they accused of occupying land in Rio owned by the Universal Church, an international evangelical church founded by Crivella's uncle.

Police were reportedly called to intervene, leading to a criminal inquiry into Crivella's actions. The 117-page police report then disappeared from the public domain until now, Veja reported.

The magazine published the front and profile pictures of Crivella apparently taken by the police. He has a board hanging around his neck with identity numbers.

Crivella responded in a video on his Facebook page, saying he was never arrested.

He confirmed that he had gone to a property "which had been invaded and the occupiers would not let us enter. There was commotion."

"I never touched the people," he said.

Police were called, he conceded, and everyone was taken to be identified. "That is why there's the photo you see on the cover (of Veja)," he said.

"There was no (legal) process, nothing, absolutely nothing. In fact, it was I who initiated a case against (the officer) for abuse of authority. I repeat that I was never arrested and there was no case against me," he said.

Crivella is leading against leftist rival Marcelo Freixo by 46 to 29 percent ahead of the October 30 runoff vote according to the latest poll by Ibope.

Crivella is among the evangelical and conservative candidates benefitting from widespread disgust with the once dominant leftist Workers' Party, which is reeling amid a major graft scandal.