Ex-CEO of Brazil's Americanas says he did not expect to lead bankrupt firm

FILE PHOTO: People walk in front of a Lojas Americanas store in Brasilia

(Reuters) - The former head of Brazilian retailer Americanas quit two weeks into the job because he had not expected to take over a bankrupt firm, he told Brazilian lawmakers probing its $5 billion accounting fraud on Tuesday.

Former Chief Executive Sergio Rial, who testified in a congressional investigation, resigned on Jan. 11, the same day Americanas revealed accounting inconsistencies that were later found to be fraud. The retailer filed for bankruptcy protection later in January.

"This was not the project I bought into. I did not buy into an insolvent project," he told lawmakers, saying he had not expected Americanas' debt to exceed its assets.

Rial, formerly chief executive and chairman at bank Santander Brasil, said he had not seen any evidence Americanas' reference shareholders - the billionaire trio that founded 3G Capital - had participated in the fraud.

"I didn't see any evidence, neither before, nor during nor after in relation to this," he said.

Rial in March testified before senators saying Americanas' previous management had created difficulties in disclosing information about the company's situation and the succession process.

(Reporting by Carolina Pulice and Peter Frontini; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)