Monday 18 December 2017

Ambassador 'murdered by his wife's police lover'

Wife (40) arrested with 27-year-old cop after body of Greek diplomat (59) found in car

A CRIME OF PASSION OR A PLANNED MURDER? Francoise Amiridis is now in police custody (AP)
A CRIME OF PASSION OR A PLANNED MURDER? Francoise Amiridis is now in police custody (AP)

Rory Mulholland in Rio de Janeiro

The Greek ambassador to Brazil was murdered by his Brazilian wife and her policeman lover in a "crime of passion" which they hoped would let them enjoy a new life together funded by the dead envoy's money, police have said.

Ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis was probably stabbed to death in the Rio de Janeiro suburbs by the Brazilian policeman, Sergio Gomez Moreira, who then rolled the body in a carpet, put it in a car and later set the vehicle alight, officers said.

KILLED: Kyriakos Amiridis (AP)
KILLED: Kyriakos Amiridis (AP)

"All our evidence suggests that the motivation for Francoise Amiridis was to use the financial resources left by the ambassador so she could enjoy life with Sergio," Evaristo Pontes Magalhaes, a police investigator, said.

He described the murder as "a tragic, cowardly act" which police are treating as "a crime of passion".

Francoise Amiridis (40) confessed she knew of the crime but has denied any role in the death of her 59-year-old husband. Magalhaes, however, told a press conference that the "evidence clearly puts the ambassador's wife as a co-author of the crime".

He said she was having an affair with Moreira, whose job was to provide security for the ambassador.

She and Moreira are in custody - together with Moreira's cousin, Eduardo Moreira de Melo, who confessed that he was paid the equivalent of €22,000 to help in the murder and with the disposal of the body.

Francoise Amiridis allegedly began plotting with her 27-year-old lover to kill the ambassador after the envoy and his wife had a serious argument just before Christmas.

The couple lived in the capital, Brasilia, but had travelled for the Christmas and New Year holidays to Nova Iguacu, a district in Rio's sprawling, violent northern outskirts where they owned a second home and where Francoise Amiridis's family lived.

According to police, the ambassador was killed on Monday. His charred body was found on Thursday, in Rio, in a burnt-out rental car.

On Wednesday, his wife had reported to police that he was missing, saying he had left the apartment in which they were staying, taken the car and not returned.

But her story had contradictions and after the ambassador's body was found in the burnt-out car under a bridge, police took her in for more questioning. Officer Moreira was also detained.

It was during this interrogation that Francoise Amiridis "broke down in tears and said it was the police officer who carried out the crime," said Magalhaes. He said she claimed she could not prevent her lover from killing her husband and insisted she was not at home at the time of the crime.

Police found blood spots believed to be from the ambassador on a sofa in the apartment in Nova Iguacu.

Officer Moreira confessed that he strangled the ambassador in self-defence during a fight - but the blood evidence left at the scene led police to believe he stabbed him.

The investigation showed that the body was removed from the house in a carpet at the same time that Francoise Amiridis arrived with their 10-year-old daughter, who did not see the body of her dead father, Magalhaes said.

A Greek police team was on its way to Brazil to take part in the investigation, while Greece's ambassador in Argentina was travelling to Brasilia, the government in Athens said. Kyriakos Amiridis was Greece's ambassador to Libya from 2012 until he took the Brazil position in early 2016. He had previously served as Greece's consul general in Rio from 2001 to 2004, where he met his wife.

Michel Temer, the Brazilian President, sent his condolences to the Greek government and conveyed his government's commitment to conducting a "rigorous" investigation.

Rio de Janeiro, which held this summer's Olympic Games, has seen crime rates soar in recent months, fuelled by violence from drug gangs.Rio de Janeiro state has been hit hard by Brazil's worst recession in more than a century - it is facing bankruptcy and is unable to pay the wages of police and other government workers on time, if at all.

Rivaldo Barbosa, the director of Rio's homicide division, said the murder of the Greek envoy was an "isolated" incident and nothing to do with the city's high level of violence.

"The Brazilian people do not accept this type of behaviour and we apologise to the entire Greek population," he said.

The neighbourhood where the ambassador's burnt body was found is dominated by politically connected armed groups comprised mostly of off-duty or retired police and firemen who control vast areas. They often extort money from residents in exchange for keeping out drug gangs.


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