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1 Feb 2019

JUST IN: Judge Re-Opens Inquest Into Scandal Tied To President's Son

A supreme court judge in Brazil on Friday overturned an injunction requested by President Jair Bolsonaro’s senator son that had frozen a probe into a suspicious payments scandal involving a former close aide.

The development dealt a blow both to the son, Flavio Bolsonaro and to the president, who has unsuccessfully been trying to distance himself from the growing scandal, which now also implicates his wife.

The affair is proving a dogged embarrassment to President Bolsonaro, who won office by campaigning fiercely on promises to stamp out corruption.

Flavio Bolsonaro won the injunction last month from another supreme court judge by arguing the case should be taken away from Rio de Janeiro prosecutors and shifted to the jurisdiction of the supreme court, which should deal with it under secrecy afforded to federal lawmakers.
But on Friday the judge, Marco Aurelio Melo, said that would be inappropriate given that Flavio Bolsonaro was not a senator at the time, with the payments occurring when he was a legislator in Rio de Janeiro’s state assembly. He also said court-imposed secrecy was not justified.

Flavio Bolsonaro and the rest of Brazil’s new federal congress inaugurated their session on Friday, a month after President Jair Bolsonaro took office. The politician father and son were elected to their higher posts in October last year.

– Wrongdoing denied –
The scandal initially focused on Flavio Bolsonaro’s former bodyguard and driver, a policeman named Fabricio Queiroz.

Brazil’s government anti-financial crimes agency COAF detected 1.2 million reais in transactions made in 2016 through Queiroz’s accounts (equivalent to $344,500 according to average exchange rates that year), far exceeding his salary.

One transaction was a deposit to an account belonging to President Bolsonaro’s wife Michelle. The leader said it was repayment of an undeclared loan he himself had made to Queiroz.

Later, it was revealed that COAF also found 48 deposits to Flavio Bolsonaro’s account in June and July 2017 — some made within minutes of each other — that totalled 96,000 reais ($30,000 equivalent at the time).

Both Queiroz and Flavio Bolsonaro have denied wrongdoing in media interviews, but neither have testified to COAF.

Queiroz said the money that went through his accounts was from a side businesses he ran, mainly buying and selling cars.

Flavio Bolsonaro said his deposits were from a property transaction but did not explain why the money was entered in amounts coming in under the threshold triggering depositor identification requirements.

President Bolsonaro has said that if wrongdoing were proved against his son “he’ll have to pay the price.”

But he also said he believed he himself was the ultimate target of the “unfounded accusations.”

Reports said Brazilian tax authorities were now scrutinizing the bank accounts of First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro because of the payment made in Queiroz’s name.

(AFP)

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