- Associated Press - Thursday, December 19, 2019

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Brazilian Sen. Flávio Bolsonaro, son of President Jair Bolsonaro, on Thursday accused “ill-intentioned” prosecutors of persecuting his family, one day after they searched a chocolate shop he co-owns as part of an investigation into allegedly suspicious financial movements.

The senator has denied any wrongdoing, but news reports on the investigation have cast a pall over his father’s first year in office after winning election with pledges to end endemic corruption. Here’s a look at the investigations around the Bolsonaro family.

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WHAT IS FLAVIO BOLSONARO BEING INVESTIGATED FOR?

Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors are pursuing two investigations linked to the senator.



The first grew from a report by a financial regulator that flagged irregular payments involving Fabrício Queiroz, who at the time was a driver for Flávio Bolsonaro when he was a state lawmaker. The investigation also involves allegations that the senator may have hired phantom employees as part of his legislative staff who then kicked back part of their salaries.

That investigation is proceeding under seal, meaning prosecutors have publicly kept quiet about details. But local media reports, based on leaks, say regulators reported payments of 1.2 million reais (about $295,000) or more.

Bolsonaro in a video posted to Facebook on Thursday criticized what he called selective leaks of information that have tarnished him. He stressed there have been no formal accusations made.

State prosecutors also are looking into possible “administrative misconduct,” based on allegations the senator once employed “phantom advisers” who didn’t perform any parliamentary duties.

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ARE THERE ANY OTHER ALLEGATIONS?

The Rio-based newspaper O Globo, citing access to documents from the prosecutors’ office, said Flávio Bolsonaro is being investigated for purportedly laundering money through the purchase of two apartments in Rio’s Copacabana neighborhood at below-market rates and their later re-sale for a significant profit.

In the Facebook video, the senator acknowledged buying the properties from “a group of American investors who were leaving Brazil.” He said that provided the opportunity to buy the apartments at a good price. “I have to buy more expensive to avoid any suspicion? What craziness is that?” he said.

According to local media, the investigation doesn’t stop at the president’s son. Previous reports linked a payment from Sen. Bolsonaro’s former driver to his father’s wife. Citing access to the inquiry, local newspapers have also reported that nine relatives of the president’s ex-wife were among the 24 targets of this week’s searches.

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WHAT DO THE BOLSONAROS SAY?

They accuse prosecutors and the media of targeting them in an attempt to undermine the far-right president’s administration.

In Thursday’s video, Flávio Bolsonaro criticized the constant leaking of information. “I apologize to the judiciary, because this is a process that is under seal, but I can’t stay quiet in the face of these continuous, repeated leaks,” he said.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, President Bolsonaro said he wouldn’t speak about issues involving other people or about decisions made by other authorities. “Brazil is much bigger than small problems. I speak for myself. My problems, you can ask about and I’ll respond. About others, I don’t have anything to do with that,” he said.

Jair Bolsonaro previously has said the deposit his son’s former driver made to his wife’s account was repayment of a debt.

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WHAT DO PROSECUTORS SAY?

In May, prosecutors issued a public statement addressing some of the criticisms raised again in Thursday’s video. The statement said Flávio Bolsonaro had been very present in the media, but was yet to show up at their offices despite several invitations. The senator’s lawyer did not respond to requests from The Associated Press for comment.

Prosecutors also said Flávio Bolsonaro, unlike other lawmakers under investigation, had focused his efforts on either trying to avoid the inquiry or requesting Brazil’s Supreme Court to halt it.

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IS THERE A BROADER ANGLE TO THE CASES?

The media reports have raised questions among Brazilians over whether the president would maintain his stated policy of zero tolerance toward corruption if a family member were implicated in a crime.

Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, ran a campaign that promised to be tough on corruption, a problem that has roiled the country in recent years amid the “Car Wash” case into widespread bribery to win government contracts. That probe has ensnared dozens of politicians and business executives.

Fifty-five percent Brazilians voted for Bolsonaro, choosing him over his leftist opponent from the Workers’ Party, which was tainted by the Car Wash investigation.

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