Bolsonaro's son faces probe over 'ghost employees'

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Brazilian prosecutors have started a new investigation into the eldest son of President Jair Bolsonaro over suspicion he embezzled public money by hiring "ghost employees," officials said.

The Rio de Janeiro Prosecutors' Office said in a statement Saturday they were investigating Flavio Bolsonaro -- a 38-year-old senator -- in relation to "the employment of ghost employees" from his cabinet.

The events in question date to the period he was regional deputy of the State of Rio.

Flavio's father, the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, took office on a promise of eradicating corruption but has been repeatedly hit by scandals involving his son.

At the beginning of the year another investigation initially focused on Flavio'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 president said it was repayment of an undeclared loan he 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.

Both Queiroz and Flavio Bolsonaro denied wrongdoing in media interviews.

The prosecutor's office opened an investigation into the case, but it was suspended in July after the Supreme Court decided judicial authorization was needed to obtain this type of financial data.

The decision could soon be reversed, however, after the court last week began a fresh debate in plenary session, the result of which could exempt prosecutors from requiring such authorization.