The charges of embezzlement and money laundering faced by Flávio Bolsonaro, the eldest son of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, may be the first severe crack in a corrupt edifice surrounding the president.
On October 3, prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro announced they had asked a court to accept charges against Flávio Bolsonaro accusing him of embezzling his employees’ government wages, a scheme known as "rachadinha," or "salary split."
The scheme allegedly took place between 2004 and 2018 when Flávio Bolsonaro was a congressman in Rio de Janeiro. It is one of numerous scandals dogging the Bolsonaro family.
In December 2018, just prior to Jair Bolsonaro being sworn in as president of Brazil, allegations of suspicious financial activity began to emerge about Flávio, including bank transfers worth hundreds of thousands of dollars made by one of his staffers, Fabricio de Queiroz.
A month later, it emerged that Flávio Bolsonaro had hired the mother and sister of a known militia leader to work for him, allegedly due to the man’s friendship with de Queiroz. That same militia leader, Adriano Magalhães da Nóbrega, was a leading suspect in the murder of Rio congresswoman, Marielle Franco in August 2018, until he was killed in a police raid last February.
Despite having steadily denied all charges against them, Flávio Bolsonaro and de Queiroz face a number of allegations of corruption and embezzlement.
In December 2019, a chocolate shop co-owned by Flávio Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro was raided by police as part of the rachadinha investigation. Prosecutors alleged he may have laundered public funds through the shop, as well as through the purchase of two apartments in Copacabana.
In June 2020, matters accelerated when de Queiroz was arrested for his role in the rachadinha case.
In their indictment of Flávio Bolsonaro, prosecutors state that the salary split scheme was confirmed by Luiza Souza Paes, a former congressional advisor to the president’s son. In her deposition, she stated that she handed 90 percent of her salary over to de Queiroz every month, either as bank deposits or in cash, leaving her with only 700 reais ($125) to live on. Additionally, Souza Paes said she handed over part of the bonuses she received due to her government position and even part of her tax return. In total, she estimated she had personally given 160,000 reais ($28,700) to the scheme.
But prosecutors say that the amount collected by Flávio Bolsonaro and de Queiroz may reach as high as 2 million reais ($360,000) over an 11-year period.
Others indicted in the case include Flávio Bolsonaro’s wife, Fernanda Antunes Figueira Bolsonaro; his chief of staff; de Queiroz’s wife and daughters; and the wife and sister of the killed militia leader, who allegedly helped to launder up to 400,000 reais ($70,000) in the rachadinha scheme.
InSight Crime Analysis
Flávio Bolsonaro has been vociferous in his denials, calling the charges “a series of bizarre errors” and accusing prosecutors of irregularities and of leaking information to the press.
His father has so far remained silent.
Yet on October 2, the day before the charges were filed, President Jair Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter defending his second son, Carlos, a Rio de Janeiro councilman who has been criticized for blocking regulations seeking to improve the tracking and control of guns and ammunition.
Carlos Bolsonaro is also under investigation for allegedly participating in salary splitting with his own employees, three of which have reportedly spoken to prosecutors.
And last April, federal police pointed to Carlos as the mastermind behind a massive scheme to spread fake news about his father and intimidate critics online. He was also allegedly instrumental in the controversial removal of Mauricio Valeixo as chief of federal police last May, after the investigation into the fake news ring began.
The third son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal deputy, has been connected to the fake news and rachadinha scandals but has so far not faced any charges. He allegedly took part in planning virtual attacks against Bolsonaro critics, according to the BBC, and one of his former advisors has been charged in connection with salary splitting. Interestingly, in 2015, Eduardo won an award for his effectiveness in combating corruption and organized crime.
And finally, suspicions are swirling around Ana Cristina Valle, the president’s ex-wife. In the last ten years, 18 members of her family have been employed within the political offices of the Bolsonaro clan and many of them are believed to have participated in the salary splitting. Valle herself was chief of staff to Carlos Bolsonaro for seven years and she bought 14 properties between 1997 and 2008, partly in cash. She is currently under investigation, as are her father, sister, uncle, aunts and cousins.