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Court to Hear Olympic Golf-Course Graft Case on Former Rio Mayor

A Brazilian court has agreed to hear charges of administrative impropriety filed against former Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes in connection with the construction of the 2016 Olympic golf course, according to a statement Thursday on the state prosecutors’ website.

Prosecutors allege that the former mayor helped the company that built the 60 million-real ($19 million) course to avoid paying fees, which has caused the city to lose more than 4 million reais.

The Rio court hearing the case ordered some of Paes’ assets frozen when the civil action was first proposed in December. At the time, local website G1 reported that the judge froze a total of 181,000 reais.

After preliminary arguments from defendants, the court has decided to hear the case, according to the prosecutors’ statement. The construction company, Fiori Empreendimentos Imobiliarios Ltda, first appealed the decision to pay a fee related to the removal of "exotic vegetation" and decided to deal directly with Paes after the request was rejected, according to prosecutors. Fiori claimed it would never have had interest in building the course had it known about the fee, the prosecutors said.

The construction company didn’t immediately return a call and an email seeking comment. Paes denied any wrongdoing in a posting on Twitter.

The building of the course, designed by Gil Hanse, was met with severe criticism during the time of its construction, with activists alleging it was developed in a protected area. Paes said in 2015 he only built the new new golf because it was a requirement to host the event.

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