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Brazil TV host accused of ordering hits to boost ratings.

Byline: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO: A Brazilian TV host accused of ordering murders to boost ratings of his crime show proclaimed his innocence Wednesday before the Amazons state legislative assembly where he is a deputy.

A former policeman, Wallace Souza is suspected of having formed a criminal organization involved in death squads, drug trafficking and gun-running.

Police said he ordered at least five murders of drug traffickers in order to bolster viewership of his crime watch show "Canal Livre" on Manaus television, during which viewers would be offered a taste of crime scenes before police arrived.

The famous TV host used his group to eliminate rivals, said prosecutors, who expect the investigation will be completed with 15 to 20 days.

A former policeman responsible for his safety was arrested and charged in connection with nine murders, which he said were committed for a special on "Canal Livre." "The investigations show that Souza ordered crimes to provide material for his shows," Amazonas public security official Thomaz Augusto Vasconcelos said earlier this month.

In a speech to the legislative assembly, Souza questioned the veracity of the testimony against him and urged his colleagues to send a representative to follow the police and prosecutors investigation.

Elected with the highest popular support in the 2008 elections, he has repeatedly insisted that the northern state of Amazonas is the most dangerous in the country. He claimed in the speech that since the accusations has surfaced, hitmen have raged on in the region.

He also lamented that international media coverage of the allegations have stained his reputation. Souza made his television debut in 1989 and rose quickly to become a TV and political star.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Aug 15, 2009
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