By Pedro Fonseca


SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian police arrested on Thursday the head of the national Olympics committee, who is accused of conspiring to bribe members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pick Rio de Janeiro as host of the 2016 games.


Brazilian investigators say Carlos Arthur Nuzman helped arrange a $2 million bribe to get the games for Rio de Janeiro, where he was arrested early on Thursday. Police said he was being held in connection with crimes including corruption and money laundering.


Marcelo Bretas, the federal judge who authorized his arrest, said new evidence indicated that Nuzman's role in the alleged vote-buying scheme was "more relevant" than initially thought.


"The accusation of vote-buying for the 2016 Olympics is unfounded," Nelio Machado, a lawyer for Nuzman, told reporters. "Today's measures are harsh and unusual."

Bretas said in an arrest order that Nuzman's wealth grew by 416 percent between 2006 and 2016 and that he had assets overseas that were only declared after the vote-buying investigation began.

The assets include 16 kg in gold bars deposited in Switzerland, Bretas said.

The IOC said on Thursday it would cooperate in the investigation. Its chief ethics and compliance officer has asked Brazil for information to proceed with its own internal investigation, which is ongoing, the body said.

"Given the new facts, the IOC Ethics Commission may consider provisional measures while respecting Mr. Nuzman’s right to be heard," the IOC said, without detailing the measures.

Leonardo Gryner, a former director of the national Olympics committee, was also arrested in a new phase of the so-called Unfair Play investigation.

Police raided Nuzman's home in September, accusing him of conspiring with politicians to buy the right to host the 2016 games. Sergio Mazzillo, a lawyer for Nuzman, said then his client was innocent.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Larry King and Susan Thomas)