Brazil police investigate federations for allegedly embezzling Olympic investments - TV

A giant banner advertising the 2016 Rio Olympics is pictured behind a statue outside a tunnel which connects Botafogo and Copacabana neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 28, 2016.REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian federal police are investigating local sports federations for allegedly embezzling funds meant for training Olympic athletes, Globo TV said on Sunday.

Police suspect Brazilian federations misappropriated funds destined to buy equipment and improve training sites ahead of the Games, Globo said. Police are investigating whether former sports minister Ricardo Leyser knew about the scheme, it added.

Brazil's government had pledged to invest 1 billion reais (£232.7 million) since 2013 to boost chances of medals at home. Brazilians were awarded 17 medals at the 2012 London Games.

A spokesman for the federal police did not immediately respond to a request for comments. A representative for Leyser could not be reached, although the minister denied any wrongdoing in an interview to Globo's weekly broadcast Fantastico.

The investigation is the latest setback for the first Games to be held in South America. Brazil's recession, the worst since the 1930s, is stoking crime and straining public finances, leading to threats of police strikes on the eve of the games.

The 2016 Games were originally planned to showcase Brazil's ascent as a global power, but will play out instead against a backdrop of recession, political turmoil and concern about an outbreak of the Zika virus.

(Reporting by Silvio Cascione)

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