Brazil federal police say Maxwell Simões Corrêa helped plan 2018 assassination; two former police officers are already awaiting trial
Brazilian police have arrested a new suspect over the killing of the Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco, the first major development for some years in a murder case that shocked Brazil and prompted international outcry.
Franco, an outspoken defender of marginalised populations, was killed with her driver Anderson Gomes in a drive-by shooting in March 2018. Two former police officers accused of carrying out the murders were arrested a year later – but they are yet to stand trial by jury and an investigation into who ordered the assassination has dragged on slowly ever since.
The former firefighter Maxwell Simões Corrêa, known as “Suel”, was arrested at his home in western Rio on Monday.
Federal police also executed seven search and seizure warrants at addresses around Rio as part of the operation, named “Elpis” after the spirit of hope in Greek mythology.
Simões Corrêa was already under house arrest for obstruction of justice, but new evidence pointing to his deeper involvement in the murders led officers to detain him, the federal police chief, Andrei Rodrigues told reporters.
According to investigators, Simões Corrêa gave logistical support to Ronnie Lessa and Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, the ex-police officers accused of firing the shots and driving the car used for the killings.
The new suspect is alleged to have helped plan Franco’s murder, as well as provided and disposed of the vehicle used for the crime. He has also given financial support to Queiroz’s family since the ex-police officer was put behind bars, the prosecutor Eduardo Morais Martins said in a press conference in Rio.
Monday’s operation was carried out by the federal police, who in February launched their own investigation into Franco’s murder and its motives, to assist a parallel state-led inquiry riddled with criticisms of inefficiency.
This produced new evidence and a plea deal with Queiroz, the justice minister, Flávio Dino, said at the Brasília press conference. Queiroz not only confessed to his role as the driver in the murders, but also implicated Lessa as the man who pulled the trigger and gave new details leading to Simões Corrêa’s arrest.
Remaining questions around the crime’s execution have been cleared up and “an important phase of the investigation has been closed”, said Dino, adding that the focus would now shift to finding out who ordered the murders. The minister confirmed speculation that paramilitary gangs known as militias – mafias that control large swathes of Rio state and are often made up of current or former state police officers – are implicated in the crime.
“I want to assure the victims’ families and civil society that the investigation is moving forward and will produce new results,” Dino said, adding that the latest developments are a sign of “a state commitment to solving all crimes and fighting impunity”.
Dino had pledged to solve Franco’s murder as “a matter of state honour” when the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government took office in January, in sharp contrast with the previous Jair Bolsonaro administration, which came under fierce criticism for its lack of commitment to resolving the case.
Franco’s sister Anielle, the current minister for racial equality, welcomed the news of the arrest. “I reaffirm my trust in the federal police running the investigation and repeat the question I have been asking for the last five years: who ordered Marielle’s killing and why?” Anielle Franco wrote on Twitter.
Source: The Guardian