A Kiwi sportsman was forced into a car by armed police and made to withdraw the equivalent of $AU794 in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil over the weekend, just 13 days before the Olympics are set to start in the city.
The police, who warned him not to report the incident and made efforts to avoid being seen, detained Jason Lee after pulling him off a highway into the city on Sunday (NZ time).
After forcing him to drive the wrong way down the highway, they transferred him into an unmarked car, then took him to several ATMs to withdraw the money.
What did you guys get up to yesterday?
I got kidnapped. Go Olympics!#Rio2016
— Jason Lee (@jasonleejitsu) July 24, 2016
They claimed that Lee was not legally allowed to drive in Brazil without his passport. Lee later found out this was not the case.
Lee, a 27-year-old jiu-jitsu national champion from Wellington, is not part of the Olympic delegation (Jiu-Jitsu is not an Olympic sport.)
He has lived in Rio for about a year with his partner Laura McQuillan, a journalist who works for Stuff.
This was the worst of several bad Brazilian experiences, Lee said.
He was more scared for his life than he had ever been.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I could possibly die,” Lee said.
The full story
The experience began with what appeared to be a routine police stop.
Lee was pulled over by two police on motorbikes, each armed with a pistol.
The Police said they were carrying out a routine search for drugs and weapons.
“First he asked me stretch my arms, then patted me down. He grabbed my genital area, which was quite a surprise.”
“At this point it still looked reasonably professional.”
After a full search of his car and person, one of officers took his license and the registration of his rented car away to his bike for a few minutes.
When he returned he was brandishing a large book, and told Lee he was breaking the law.
“He says ‘you can’t drive in Brazil as a foreigner without a passport,’ which I now know isn’t the case at all. The rental car company hadn’t mentioned that to me.”
“He starts opening the book, showing me all these passages in Portuguese, which I can sort of read like every third word.
The police demanded that Lee either paid them 2000 Brazilian Reais ($AU794) or they would arrest him and take him to the federal police.
Lee didn’t have that much cash, so the police told him to follow them to an ATM.
But instead they forced him to drive down the wrong lane of a highway, pulling off beside a concrete police bunker underneath an overpass.
“These guys have pulled me over, they have weapons. I’m not in any position to negotiate,” Lee said.
At this point he feared for his life.
At the bunker, Lee was forced to swap into an unmarked private car belonging to one of the officers.
When he asked why he couldn’t drive his own car to the ATM, they explain that his car doesn’t have tinted windows, but they are in full uniform and don’t want to be seen.
“At this point I acknowledged to myself that I’ve completely backed myself into a corner.”
Lee had been sending voice messages to his partner on WhatsApp, and dropped a GPS pin at the location of the bunker.
“Once I realised it was corrupt stuff that made me hesitant to go towards my phone – they knew what they were doing was wrong.”
One of the officers and Lee drove to a nearby group of shops where he withdrew the money from several ATMs. The officer stayed in the car to avoid the security cameras, Lee said.
The pair returned to the bunker, Lee handed over the money, and was finally released.
One of the officers warned Lee against reporting the incident.
“He said ‘you can’t say anything to anyone about this, not a word.'”
Lee worried that drugs may have been planted in his car.
He immediately returned it and took an Uber home, before reporting the incident to the Tourist Police that night.
“I was umming and ahhing about whether I should even make a complaint. One of the guys I was reporting it to said ‘we understand you are hesitant, because we are the Police, and that branch of the Police is so scary even we are afraid of them’.”
Lee said that in the year he has lived in Brazil, things have appeared to get worse, not better.
This article first appeared on Stuff.co.nz. Read the original story here.
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