The governor of the central Brazilian state of Goias proclaimed his innocence here on Tuesday before a special congressional commission that is investigating alleged links between politicians and an illegal gaming outfit.

Marconi Perillo, along with Brasilia district Gov. Agnelo Queiroz, is suspected of being involved in the business activities of businessman Carlos Augusto Ramos, a.k.a. Carlinhos Cachoeira, reputed boss of a gambling racket with tentacles reaching into the ranks of the police.

Perillo categorically denied any links to Cachoeira, whom he said he saw personally only a few times, although he admitted that last year he telephoned him to wish him happy birthday.

That call was picked up by police in the course of court-ordered wiretaps of Ramos.

According to Perillo, that call was "one of the many" he had made to Goias businessmen whom he didn't know well and had "no intimate" connections with but to whom he made it a point to send birthday greetings.

Perillo also admitted that the mansion where Cachoeira was arrested in February used to belong to the governor, but he explained that he sold it at the end of last year and did not know that the buyer was considered to be a front man for the reputed mobster.

During the nearly eight-hour session the committee covered the alleged links between Cachoeira's operation and Goias state police, which Perillo admitted "could have existed."

Perillo said that the contracts that the state government granted to builder Delta, which has connections with Cachoeira's outfit, were absolutely legal, they were awarded in public bidding and represent just 4 percent of the Goias projects that have been bid upon by various firms.

Brasilia's Queiroz is to appear before the congressional panel on Wednesday. EFE