By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The son of Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he was the target of a “defamatory campaign” after news reports that he employed the mother and wife of a fugitive former policeman accused of running a criminal organisation.
Flavio Bolsonaro, 37, a former Rio state lawmaker elected to the Senate in October, has already faced tough questions about a series of financial transactions involving him and his former driver and state assembly aide Fabricio Queiroz.
The cases have clouded the first three weeks in office of the new president, a far-right former army captain who surged to victory on a promise to end years of political graft, vowing zero tolerance on those close to him found to be corrupt.
Those promises have added to scrutiny of his son’s former staff, which included the relatives of fugitive former police officer Adriano Magalhaes da Nobrega – hirings first reported by newspaper O Globo and confirmed by the senator-elect’s aides.
The official gazette of Rio state shows both relatives were on the public payroll as members of Flavio Bolsonaro’s staff until November. Efforts to reach them and the fugitive officer were not immediately successful.
The senator-elect issued a statement saying the hiring had been “at the indication of former aide Fabricio Queiroz.”
“I cannot be held responsible for acts that I’m unaware of,” added the younger Bolsonaro.
Nobrega, alias “Captain Adriano,” is being sought by police for heading a militia that is suspected of being behind the assassination last year of Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver, whose murders remain unresolved.
A lawyer for Queiroz denied his client had any connection with the militia.
Flavio Bolsonaro has already been under pressure regarding unusual transactions flagged by a government agency, involving large cash movements by Queiroz and deposits in the lawmaker’s account, all for the same sum of 2,000 reais and made in quick succession between June 9 and July 13, 2017.
Flavio Bolsonaro said in a television interview they were part payment for an apartment he sold, but he did not clarify why the deposit had not been made in such a way as to hide the origin.
While he is not being investigated for his aide’s account movements, neither Bolsonaro nor Queiroz showed up to answer questions when called on to help prosecutors in the probe.
President Bolsonaro’s political allies are worried his son’s troubles will hurt the three-week-old government and could undermine support for his legislative agenda.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a retired general, tried to distance the government from the case, telling Reuters on Sunday that the son’s case “has nothing to do with our government.”
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Leslie Adler)