BRASILIA, Brazil – Brazilian police say they are hunting for a TV crime show host and former state legislator who is accused of commissioning killings to boost ratings.
Agents say they haven't yet been able to find Wallace Souza and they are staking out an airport in Manaus.
Monday's arrest warrant lists charges of drug trafficking, gang formation and weapons possession. Souza says he is innocent, but a state legislature in the Amazon region kicked him out last week.
Authorities say the 51-year-old Souza orchestrated five killings to increase ratings for his "Canal Livre" show that featured graphic footage of crime victims. He has not yet been charged in those killings, however.
In one murder after another, the Canal Livre TV show had an uncanny knack for being first on the scene, gathering graphic footage of the victim.
Too uncanny, say police.
"The order to execute always came from the legislator and his son, who then alerted the TV crews to get to the scene before the police," state police intelligence chief Thomaz Vasconcelos charged in an interview in August with The Associated Press.
The killings, he said, "appear to have been committed to get rid of his rivals and increase the audience of the TV show."
Souza's lawyer, Francisco Balieiro, has said his client vehemently denies the accusations. Balieiro claimed political opponents were trying to smear him with false accusations, and that the only witness is a disgraced police officer hoping for leniency in nine murders he is charged with.
Vasconcelos said the accusations, which have made headlines in Brazil, stem from the testimony of several former employees and security guards who worked with the Souzas, allegedly as part of a gang of former police officers involved in drug trafficking.