Brazil puzzled by 'soap opera' murder

All of Brazil knew him as "PC" He was the balding, bespectacled multi-millionaire businessman at the heart of a corruption scandal which led to the 1992 impeachment of President Fernando Collor de Mello. So well-known was his face that "PC" masks were among the most popular at the Rio carnival.

Yesterday, Brazilians learnt that PC, Paulo Cesar Farias, had been found shot dead in his beach house in what appeared to be a crime of passion, an appropriate ending to his soap opera life.

Next to the body of the 50-year-old businessman, shot through the heart, was that of his 28-year-old girlfriend.

Police believed Farias had been shot by the woman, Suzana Marcolini, before she hanged herself in the house in Maceio in the state of Alagoas.

Brazilians were not so sure. They noted Farias's murky past - President Collor once called him "a megalomaniac and a charlatan" - and the fact that he had been planning a political comeback in a run for a parliamentary seat. He was last in the country's glossy magazines when his first wife, Elma, committed suicide last year.

As President Collor's campaign treasurer, Farias was renowned for procuring large contributions from fellow businessmen to the elections of Mr Collor and his party colleagues.

After Mr Collor's brother, Pedro, revealed that Farias was the hub of an extortion network to line his own and the President's pockets, a congressional investigation found that Farias had regularly flown out of Brazil with suitcases full of cash.

The President was impeached but still lives in luxury and talks of a comeback. Farias fled the country but was spotted in Bangkok in November 1993 and deported to Brazil.

He was sentenced to seven years' jail, mainly for tax evasion, but served only 19 months, most of it under house arrest.

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