World News

Brazil president-elect's son snared in growing payments probe

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian state prosecutors on Friday ordered the son of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro to explain suspicious funds in the bank account of his former driver, widening their probe after the ex-staff member failed to show up to answer queries.

FILE PHOTO: Flavio Bolsonaro, son of Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro is seen behind him at the transition government building in Brasilia, Brazil November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Questions over the origin of the funds in the bank account of Fabricio Queiroz, who for years was on Senator-elect Flavio Bolsonaro’s payroll, have threatened to tarnish the reputation of the Bolsonaro family, whose members surged to power on a promise to end years of political corruption.

Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors want Flavio Bolsonaro to explain why his former driver had 1.2 million reais ($310,575) flow through his bank account between 2016-2017, including payments to the president-elect’s wife, Michelle Bolsonaro.

Prosecutors said the request was prompted by Queiroz’ failure to show for a meeting with investigators on Friday. They said he had also missed an appointment on Wednesday, again citing a health crisis.

Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected president in October thanks to a strong anti-graft message, and his son have both denied any wrongdoing.

Jair Bolsonaro has said the payment to his wife was Queiroz repaying a personal loan. He added that if he made a mistake by not declaring the money from Queiroz, he would rectify it with tax authorities.

Flavio Bolsonaro has said that Queiroz gave him a “plausible” explanation of the origin of the money and that the accusations were intended to destabilise the Bolsonaro family. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

According to Brazil’s Council for Financial Activities Control, which identified the transactions, some of the payments to Queiroz’ bank account were made by other employees on Flavio Bolsonaro’s payroll when he served as a Rio de Janeiro state lawmaker, including by Queiroz’ own daughter.

Many of the deposits were made on or around the same day that the state Congress paid employees.

The state prosecutors have suggested that Flavio Bolsonaro come in on Jan 10. Jair Bolsonaro takes office on Jan. 1.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O’Brien