Ex-Americanas executive tied to fraud probe returns to Brazil, surrenders passport

RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - A former executive of Brazilian retailer Americanas accused of connection with an alleged billion dollar accounting fraud landed at an airport in Sao Paulo on Monday and handed over her passport to the country's federal police.

Anna Saicali was one of the main targets of raids launched by Brazil's police last week as part of their probe into the 25.3 billion-real ($4.53 billion) accounting scandal that led Americanas to file for bankruptcy in January 2023.

A court in Rio de Janeiro ordered Saicali's arrest while the former executive was abroad.

The arrest warrant was later overturned by the court and the former executive boarded a flight to Brazil from Portugal, where she had been living.

Saicali handed her passport over to police upon her arrival and will not be able to leave Brazil for now.

Her lawyers did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Saicali was targeted by the court-ordered raids alongside former Americanas CEO Miguel Gutierrez, who was arrested in Madrid on Friday before being released over the weekend.

As part of the raids, federal police agents also served 15 search and seizure warrants for the houses of former Americanas directors.

Federal police investigators have called it "the biggest fraud in the history of Brazil's financial market."

The judge who ordered the raids and the freezing of some 500 million reais in assets owned by those under investigation said in a warrant seen by Reuters that police had provided convincing proof of insider trading and market manipulation.

Americanas, one of Brazil's largest online and brick-and-mortar retailers, has long been controlled by three Brazilian billionaires who founded 3G Capital - Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira.

($1 = 5.5801 reais)

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; writing by Luana Maria Benedito; editing by Paul Simao)