Brazil’s leading news weekly Veja apologized to former World Cup winning soccer player turned politician Romario de Souza Faria after admitting an article that stated he had undeclared cash in a Swiss bank account wasn’t true.
The article published on July 27 was based on a forged bank statement that purported to show Romario, top scorer at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., had 2.1 million Swiss francs ($2.14 million) in an account with BSI SA, Veja said. The article claimed the money was being hidden from Brazil’s tax authorities.
The timing of the Veja article coincided with the start of a parliamentary investigation into alleged corruption at Brazilian soccer’s governing body that Romario is leading. The magazine said Romario’s public stance on ethics was incongruous with his private financial affairs.
“For publishing a false document to be true, Veja apologizes to Senator Romario and our readers,” the magazine said in a statement published on its website along with a letter of complaint sent by BSI to Geneva’s prosecutor general. Romario, who won the 1994 Spanish championship with Barcelona, traveled to Geneva to clear up the affair.
Romario addressed the article in a speech Wednesday to the Brazilian senate. He said he was suing the magazine for 10 times the amount Veja claimed he had in the bank account.
“I cannot say I was totally surprised at this attack because I knew this would begin,” Romario said.
“I recently assumed the presidency of the football investigation and at the same time, opinion polls show my name is in front in the contest for the Rio de Janeiro mayor’s office. From the moment you touch the interest of powerful and corrupt people, we began to suffer intimidation and defamation, a common practice from this gang.”
Veja said it waited to issue the apology because it was investigating the bank statement, which it concluded was false after getting a letter from the bank.
Romario was elected to Brazil’s senate last year. He had been a member of the lower house since 2010.