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Brazil's top court approves investigation into Bolsonaro chief of staff

Brazil's top court approves investigation into Bolsonaro chief of staff
FILE PHOTO: Congressman Onyx Lorenzoni, the future presidential chief of staff, talks with journalists in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado   -   Copyright  ADRIANO MACHADO(Reuters)
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BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had authorized a federal investigation into allegations that the incoming chief of staff for far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro had taken illegal campaign donations.

Brazil’s Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge asked the top court to allow an investigation into whether Onyx Lorenzoni, who will serve as Bolsonaro’s chief of staff and longtime federal congressman, took illegal campaign donations from the world’s largest meatpacker JBS SA.

Executives of JBS said they made 200,000 reais ($52,290) worth of such payments to Onyx between 2012 and 2014. They made the accusation in plea-bargain testimony, part of a deal with prosecutors that saw J&F Investimentos SA, the holding that controls JBS, pay a record 10.3 billions reais fine for bribing over 1,800 politicians at all levels in Brazil in recent years.

A spokesman for Onyx did not respond to requests for comment.

Sweetheart contracts with governments and state loans helped fuel growth at J&F over the past decade, enabling it to assert control of JBS while expanding into fashion, dairy production, pulp processing and banking.

JBS grew from a mid-sized slaughterhouse in Brazil’s Midwest into one of the world’s top-three food processing companies in over a decade through acquisitions partially funded by government-supplied money.

The investigation is the second graft allegation made against a top member of Bolsonaro’s incoming government, a thorny issues as the leader was elected on a law-and-order platform a vow to end widespread political corruption exposed by the sprawling “Car Wash” investigation and other probes.

Last week, federal police opened an investigation into Paulo Guedes, who Bolsonaro has named as his economy minister, and whether he committed fraud tied to pension funds of state-run firms. Guedes’ lawyers said he had done nothing wrong.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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