Brazil police arrest ex-minister Vieira Lima after cash seizure

Brazilian minister Geddel Vieira Lima at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian police on Friday said they arrested former minister Geddel Vieira Lima on new charges after a corruption probe found his fingerprints in bags hiding more than 51 million reais ($16.52 million) in cash.

Vieira Lima was in charge of President Michel Temer's relations with Congress until November.

He had been under house arrest since July, accused of obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to deter entrepreneur Lúcio Funaro, who worked for politicians close to Temer, from striking a plea bargain deal with prosecutors.

Judge Vallisney de Souza Oliveira said in a ruling authorizing the arrest that it was necessary to stop Lima from committing other crimes.

Police took hours to calculate the exact amount of money found in boxes and bags earlier this week at an apartment in Salvador, in the nation's biggest-ever cash seizure.

When Lima resigned from his cabinet post in November, he was the fifth minister to leave the administration over graft allegations. Temer himself was later charged by the country's top prosecutor of corruption, an accusation he managed to defeat through a lower house vote in August.

Lima's lawyer, Gamil Foppel, said his client had no access to the court documents about the evidence found by police, in clear violation of the law.

($1 = 3.0875 reais)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)