As Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro arrives in Switzerland on Monday on his first trip abroad, to attend Davos, he is leaving behind a suspicious payments scandal involving his politician son Flavio Bolsonaro.
Flavio, a senator in the incoming Congress, is under growing scrutiny by a government financial watchdog because of 48 deposits made to his bank account in 2017 for a total $30,000, as well as persistent questions over $300,000 in transactions detected in the account of a former close aide.
The suspicions are an embarrassment to Jair Bolsonaro, who won the election on promises to stamp out the corruption that has long plagued Brazilian politics.
Flavio Bolsonaro has come out swinging, denying any wrongdoing.
“I have nothing to hide,” he told Brazilian TV network Record late Sunday, claiming he was the victim of “persecution.”
Waving documents, he said the money came from the sale and purchase of an apartment, adding that the payment of a million reais ($300,000) to a federal loans account was related to the property deal.
Brazil’s COAF agency tasked with monitoring financial transactions discovered that 48 deposits of 2,000 reais were made into Flavio’s account over five days in June and July 2017, many just minutes apart, according to media citing a COAF report.
The total deposited was 96,000 reais (equivalent to $30,000 at the average exchange rate for this year). The 2,000-real threshold is below a requirement for the person making a deposit to show their identity.
Flavio, in the interview, said “this money is mine, deposited in my own account… There is no mystery. Everything is declared, proven. If it was illicit, do you think it would be deposited in my account?”
The matter was to be detailed further on Monday, with prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro holding a media conference on the transactions.
Up to being elected to the Senate, Flavio Bolsonaro was a deputy in Rio de Janeiro’s state legislature.
The revelations come on top of transactions involving his former driver and bodyguard, a police officer named Fabricio Queiroz, between 2016 and 2017. Some money was deposited in the account of Jair Bolsonaro’s wife.
Queiroz has declined to testify to COAF over the money, asserting ill health. But he has told media the money came from side businesses he ran, mainly buying and selling cars.
Brazil’s supreme court last week suspended an investigation into Queiroz’s transactions at Flavio’s request.
Jair Bolsonaro has said the money put in his wife’s account came from an undeclared loan he made to Queiroz.
Adding to the suspicions, a columnist in the O Globo newspaper, Lauro Jardim, on Sunday wrote that seven million reais (around $2 million) passed through Queiroz’s account between 2014 and 2017.
The result for Jair Bolsonaro is an uncomfortable scandal at home while he meets with the world’s political and financial elite at Davos.
According to Brazilian reports, citing presidential spokesman Rego Barros, Bolsonaro has cancelled a planned media conference in Davos to avoid being questioned about his son’s transactions.