Brazil president's senator son charged with corruption

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Brazilian prosecutors on Wednesday charged President Jair Bolsonaro's son Flavio with corruption, accusing him of skimming money off the top of his staffers' salaries when he was a Rio de Janeiro state lawmaker.

The charges are the first to be brought in a series of investigations involving the president's family, and could prove damaging for the far-right leader, who ran on an anti-corruption platform.

Rio state prosecutors accuse Flavio Bolsonaro, 39, of embezzlement, money laundering and operating a criminal enterprise from 2007 to 2018.

His former driver and fixer, Fabricio Queiroz, is also accused in the alleged scheme.

Queiroz, a former police officer, was arrested in June, leading to speculation he could cut a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for information on his former boss' role.

Fifteen other people are also accused.

"I did nothing illegal. The Rio state prosecutor's office made a series of strange mistakes in its 'accusation,' which just happens to come on the eve of local elections" on November 15, Flavio Bolsonaro wrote on Instagram.

"I don't even think (the court) will accept the charges."

The case began in 2018, when auditors identified a series of unusual transfers to an account held by Queiroz for a total of 1.2 million reais (around $375,000 at the time).

Investigators say they detected a scheme commonly known in Brazil as "rachadinha," in which politicians pack their public payrolls with fake staff and pocket or otherwise divert part of the money.

Prosecutors accuse Flavio Bolsonaro, who was elected to the Senate in the same election that swept his father to power in 2018, of embezzling 2.7 million reais in all.

He denies the accusations and says he is the victim of "political persecution."

The case drew intense scrutiny when reports emerged in August that First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro had received 21 unexplained bank deposits from Queiroz from 2011 to 2016.

Asked about those allegations by a journalist, the president replied, "I so want to pound your mouth with punches."