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Brazil Arrests Senior Facebook Exec Over WhatsApp Aid In Drug Case

March 1, 2016, 4:19 PM UTC
Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg - Getty Images

Facebook’s (FB) vice president for Latin America has been arrested on his way to work in São Paulo, Brazil. Federal police picked up Diego Dzodan because Facebook disobeyed a court order to help investigators in a drug case that involves a WhatsApp user.

The arrest was made at the request of officials from the state of Sergipe, in Brazil’s north-east. In a statement, the federal police said Facebook/WhatsApp had repeatedly failed to comply with court orders relating to an organized crime and drug-trafficking investigation.

Local media reported that the police were being cagey about the precise details of the arrest, due to the secretive nature of the judicial process in this case.

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WhatsApp said in a statement that it was disappointed at the arrest and is unable to provide information it does not have, due to the architecture of its service. “We cooperated to the full extent of our ability in this case and while we respect the important job of law enforcement, we strongly disagree with its decision,” the unit said.

Facebook issued a distinct statement, noting that WhatsApp is operationally separate from the mothership, making the arrest of a Facebook exec “extreme and disproportionate.”

Brazil blocked WhatsApp for two days back in December, because of its unwillingness to cooperate in a criminal investigation. Again, the details were scarce at the time due to secrecy.

Dzodan has been in his post at Facebook since June last year. Previously, he spent six months as regional senior vice president for Software AG (SWDAF), and before that he spent a few years in several senior roles for SAP (SAP).

This story was updated to include Facebook and WhatsApp’s responses.