Alex Constantine - August 11, 2009
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo
Police have accused a TV presenter in Brazil of being involved in organised drug trafficking and ordering killings to get rid of rivals and boost ratings. Wallace Souza, who is also a state legislator, says the claims are an attempt by rivals to smear him and that there is no evidence to back them.
But the police say he ordered killings in the state of Amazonas and alerted TV crews to get them to the scene first.
The TV show was halted late last year as police stepped up their inquiry. If what the police say is true, then this is the TV show that not only reported crime, but was actually behind it as well.
The authorities believe that Mr Souza commissioned at least five murders in order to get rid of drug trafficking rivals and to boost his programme ratings. They say he wanted to prove his claims that the region he represented in the state of Amazonas was plagued with crime.
A local police chief told the Associated Press that the order to execute always came from the presenter and his son, and that TV crews were alerted to get to the scene of the crime first. State Security Secretary Francisco Cavalcanti says the truth has now become clear.
"On several occasions they fabricated the facts, they fabricated news," Mr Cavalcanti said.
Wallace Souza faces a variety of charges, including drug trafficking and weapons possession, but remains free because for the moment his political role gives him immunity.
His son Rafael, meanwhile, has been arrested on charges of murder, drug trafficking and illegally possessing guns. Lawyers for Wallace Souza, a former policeman who was expelled from the force, say the accusations are an attempt to smear him and that there is not one piece of material proof to back the police claims.