Brazil: Investigators Target Bolsonaro Family, Associates' Properties

Published: 19 December 2019

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, 2019 photo. (Source: Isac Nóbrega/PR [CC BY 2.0])Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, 2019 photo. (Source: Isac Nóbrega/PR [CC BY 2.0])

By Nicholas Flynt

Brazilian investigators raided on Wednesday a number of properties connected to President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Flávio, a senator, who is suspected of having overseen a corruption racket during his tenure as a Rio congressman, according to local reports. 

The operation has dealt a blow to the rightwing, populist president, who won the elections by promising to root out corruption, The Guardian reported. 

The embezzlement and money-laundering inquiry also saw officials from Rio de Janeiro’s public prosecutor searching properties linked to friends and other family members of Jair Bolsonaro, including his ex-wife — Ana Cristina Valle — and his former father-in-law and sister-in-law.

Documents and mobile phones were reportedly seized as 24 warrants were executed in the cities of Rio and Resende. The targets included a chocolate shop in Rio partly owned by Flávio Bolsonaro.

The Guardian reports that the investigation began when the government's watchdog for financial transactions detected suspicious activities in a bank account controlled by Jair Bolsonaro's friend and former driver, as well as Senator Flávio Bolsonaro’s former security chief and aide, Fabricio Queiroz.

Queiroz said in a statement that he was surprised but unconcerned about the raids, "since he has always cooperated with the investigations."

The younger Bolsonaro told Brazilian television network Globo that his chocolate shop franchise had normal financial transactions and received payments in cash consistent with a commercial business.

Flávio Bolsonaro dismissed accusations that he and Queiroz oversaw a corruption racket during his 15 years as a Rio congressman.

President Bolsonaro made no immediate comment on Wednesday’s raids, according to The Guardian, but his son’s lawyers claimed the operation represented “yet another attempt to destabilize Jair’s government.”

Bolsonaro’s enemies were to blame, lawyer Fred Wasseff reportedly claimed, without giving additional details.

Prosecutors did not provide details because the investigation is proceeding under seal, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The current investigation is an offshoot from an earlier probe, which examined suspicious payments to the senator's staff. The original investigation was frozen by Brazil's Supreme Court earlier this year only to be later reactivated.