January 10, 2019 / 6:33 PM / a month ago

Brazil president's son misses meeting with prosecutors probing payments

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday he would not immediately meet with prosecutors to explain suspicious payments handled by his former driver, an episode that has clouded his father’s first days in office.

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/File Photo

Questions over the origin of the funds in the bank account of Fabricio Queiroz, who for years was a driver on former Rio state lawmaker and 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.

Flavio Bolsonaro, his father and Queiroz have all said they are innocent of any crime.

Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors had asked Flavio Bolsonaro to meet with them to explain the irregular cash flows on Thursday, after Queiroz failed to show to previous appointments, citing health reasons.

But Flavio Bolsonaro said he would not meet with prosecutors as planned, saying he had only been notified of the appointment on Monday. He vowed to arrange a new time.

“As I am not being investigated, I have not yet had access to the records,” he wrote on Facebook. “I hereby undertake to schedule a day and time to present the duly substantiated explanations ... so that there is no doubt about my conduct.”

The scandal arose after Brazil’s Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF) identified 1.2 million reais ($305,000) that in 2016-17 flowed through the bank account of Queiroz. Some payments were made to the president’s wife, Michelle Bolsonaro.

Jair Bolsonaro, who took power on Jan.1, has said the payment to his wife was Queiroz repaying a personal loan. Flavio Bolsonaro has said that Queiroz gave him a “plausible” explanation, and that the accusations were intended to destabilize the Bolsonaro family.

In a TV interview late last month, Queiroz said the money in his account was from a side-business of buying and selling cars.

“I’m a businessman,” he said. “I make money.”

According to the COAF, some of the payments to Queiroz’ bank account were made by other employees on Flavio Bolsonaro’s payroll when he served as a state lawmaker, including by Queiroz’s own daughter. Many of the deposits were made on or around the same day the employees were paid, the COAF found.

In his TV interview, Queiroz declined to explain why his colleagues were depositing money into his account, saying he would tell investigators.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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