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NZ jiu-jitsu champ ‘kidnapped by police’ in Rio

New Zealand jiu-jitsu champion Jason Lee has reported that he was ‘kidnapped’ by police in Brazil on Saturday and forced to withdraw hundreds of dollars at ATMs around Rio to pay a false fine.


Jason Lee

Lee, who lives in Rio but is from Wellington, was stopped by a group of cops, he says, and when they told him he had to pay a fine for ‘not having his passport on him’ – a fake crime – he did not have enough cash.

They then transferred him to an unmarked car, at gunpoint he tells stuff.co.nz, and drove him around to various cash points to withdraw a total of $800. They did not get out of the car, to avoid cameras as they were in uniform, he says.

Lee, who is not part of the Olympic team as his sport is not on the roster, explained about what seemed like a routine traffic check at first: “I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I could possibly die.

“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.”

Then, after a search of his car: “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.

“These guys have pulled me over, they have weapons. I’m not in any position to negotiate.

“Once I realised it was corrupt stuff that made me hesitant to go towards my phone – they knew what they were doing was wrong.”

While he was warned by one of the men not to report the incident, Lee went to the tourism police anyway, adding: “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 added that the crime in Rio had been getting progressively worse in the year he’d lived there.