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Investigators focus on Miami investor in possible bid-rigging for 2016 Brazil Olympics

Emily L. Mahoney and Malu Gaspar, Miami Herald on

Published in Olympics

After the vote that decided Rio de Janeiro would host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Brazilian city erupted in celebration as the government declared a state holiday and wild parties flooded Copacabana Beach.

It was a historic first for South America, which had never hosted the Olympics.

But that victory has recently been tainted by whiffs of scandal, with French investigators on the trail of a possible bribery scheme right out of the Panama Papers -- featuring a Russian bank account, British Virgin Islands-based holding company and a murky $1.5 million wire transfer three days before Rio was selected.

One man caught in the crosshairs is a Brazilian national, shrouded in mystery, who has long straddled two worlds: contracting mogul in Rio, elite investor in Miami.

Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho -- or "King Arthur," as he is known in Brazil ––has intermittently lived in Miami for decades, shelling out millions for valuable properties and opening businesses, according to public records. But his life of luxury could be imperiled by ongoing, intensifying investigations.

French prosecutors aren't his only problem. Brazilian investigators are picking off people in Soares' circle one by one on corruption charges as part of a separate investigation.

Soares did not respond to messages sent through his business partner and the gatekeeper at his residence asking for comment. Lawyers tied to him through business filings or court records either declined to comment or did not respond to calls and emails describing the nature of this story.

Soares is a man who could easily blend into the fabric of Miami, a city teeming with rich foreign nationals and a haven for deposed leaders and others looking for breathing room when law enforcement in their home countries turns up the heat.

Most recently, former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was arrested at his home in Coral Gables on corruption charges, beginning extradition proceedings.

In Rio, Soares was the top state government contractor, providing things like cleaning services, security and prison food. He was the right-hand man to Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral. During Cabral's time in office, Soares' profits boomed with about $960 million in signed government contracts, according to a March report by Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

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