Brazil police question officer about missing Greek ambassador: report

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2016 9:05 AM

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities questioned a police officer overnight in connection with the apparent murder of Greece's ambassador to Brazil, and investigated if the diplomat's Brazilian wife was involved, local media reported on Friday.

The O Globo newspaper, citing family members of the police officer, reported the policeman was questioned for several hours regarding missing Greek Ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis.

Globo also reported that detectives found blood on a couch inside the Rio home where the ambassador and his wife were staying, and questioned his wife, Françoise.

A burned corpse was found Thursday evening inside the car that Amiridis, 59, and his Brazilian wife had rented.

The case is being investigated by Rio de Janeiro state's homicide division, with the O Globo newspaper reporting that police are working on the assumption it was a murder.

In Athens, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Stratos Efthymiou said that "unfortunately there has not yet been identification of the body" and that "we are awaiting the conclusion of the Brazilian coroner" before making a statement.

"However, it is not a good sign that the (burned out) car was rented by our ambassador," Efthymiou said.

Rio de Janeiro police said they were still investigating and that the charred body found inside the car rented by the ambassador was being examined, but had no further comment.

The car was located in the northern outskirts of Rio, a poor section dominated by powerful and politically connected armed groups mostly comprised of off-duty or retired police and firefighters who control vast areas. They are believed to often extort residents in exchange for keeping drug gangs from taking over the areas.

The armed groups have grown in strength in Rio for several years, and often curry favor with local politicians by promising to deliver votes from entire neighborhoods as long as authorities allow them to carry out their crimes.

On Thursday, police confirmed that the ambassador had been missing since Monday night, when he was last seen leaving the home of his wife's family. His burned rented car was found nearby, with the charred body inside. The ambassador was reported missing by his wife on Wednesday.

The incident is another blow to Rio's image, just four months after it hosted the Summer Olympics.

Crime in Rio has been rising and the state is deeply indebted, often unable to pay police and other salaries on time if at all.

Amiridis had served as Greece's consul general in Rio from 2001 to 2004. He was Greece's ambassador to Libya from 2012 until he took the top Brazil post at the beginning of 2016.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo, Paulo Prada in Rio de Janeiro and George Georgiopoulos in Athens; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)