Former Americanas CEO Gutierrez arrested in Spain in fraud case, faces extradition to Brazil

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA/MADRID (Reuters) -The former CEO of retail giant Americanas, wanted in Brazil in connection with a $4.5 billion alleged accounting fraud, was arrested in Madrid on Friday at the request of Brazilian authorities, who will now seek his extradition.

Miguel Gutierrez had been included in Interpol's wanted list on Thursday after a Rio de Janeiro court issued an arrest warrant against him, but Brazil's police did not manage to make the arrest since he was living abroad.

Gutierrez, who led Americanas for more than two decades until December 2022, is being investigated in Brazil as part of a probe into a 25.3 billion-real ($4.5 billion) alleged accounting fraud that led the firm to file for bankruptcy in January 2023.

Gutierrez's legal defense team said in a statement on Thursday, after news of the warrant, that he had never participated or known about any fraud during his time running the retailer.

Spanish police said their organized crime unit arrested Gutierrez, who was sought by Brazil through Interpol for the crime of "aggravated fraud," and his capture was carried out through an anti-money laundering operation coordinated by Brazil's federal police.

The head of Brazil's federal police, Andrei Rodrigues, told news channel Globo News that the South American country would request Gutierrez's extradition to Brazil where he would face trial.

One police source familiar with the matter noted extradition could be difficult because Gutierrez has dual Brazilian and Spanish citizenship. Rodrigues noted the former executive could potentially serve any prison time in Spain.


The judge who ordered his arrest, as well as the search and seizure of evidence in the homes of 14 former Americanas executives, said in an warrant seen by Reuters that police had provided convincing proof of insider trading and market manipulation.

The executives under investigation fraudulently altered the company's results to increase its share price, the judge wrote, citing the police probe.

The judge added that when the revelation of alleged fraud became imminent, Gutierrez sold shares worth 171.7 million reais before the stock price plummeted.

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

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

Americanas last year had accused Gutierrez and half a dozen other former employees of taking part in a fraud scheme.

Since the scandal was uncovered, Americanas has filed for bankruptcy, changed executives, revised its 2021 results and agreed to a capital injection of up to 12 billion reais from its controlling investors, aiming for a recovery in 2025.

($1 = 5.5825 reais)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Additional reporting by David Latona in Madrid; Writing by Anthony Boadle and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Frances Kerry and Paul Simao)