February 21, 2019 / 9:42 PM / in 4 months

UPDATE 1-Brazil prosecutors open money-laundering probe into president's son

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By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The senator son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is under investigation by federal authorities for money laundering in connection to unexplained increases in his net worth, the prosecutor general’s office said on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors said this month that an accusation of money laundering had been raised against Senator Flavio Bolsonaro in connection with at least two luxury apartments he purchased in Rio de Janeiro.

The press office for the prosecutor general did not provide more details. A spokeswoman for Flavio Bolsonaro said he was innocent of any wrongdoing and “is the victim of political persecution and repudiates the attempt to ascribe wrongdoing and crimes that do not exist.”

Flavio Bolsonaro has been dogged by multiple corruption allegations that are sullying the law-and-order image his father rode to an easy presidential election last year.

Flavio Bolsonaro had refused to meet with Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors to be questioned for related accusations. But he will not be able to avoid the far more powerful federal prosecutors, who have spearheaded Brazil’s unprecedented anti-corruption drive of recent years.

AVOIDING AUTHORITIES

Brazil’s Supreme Court earlier this month rejected an appeal by Flavio Bolsonaro to halt a sprawling probe into numerous suspicious cash payments made into the account of his former driver, Fabricio Queiroz.

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

The scandal arose after the Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF) identified 48 suspicious deposits worth a total of 100,000 reais ($27,000) deposited in a single month in 2017 into Flavio’s bank account.

COAF also found 7 million reais in suspicious financial transactions in accounts belonging to Queiroz.

The O Globo newspaper reported earlier this month it had viewed a federal police investigation into real estate deals Flavio carried out between 2014 and 2017 that resulted in an “exceptional increase” in his net worth. The police document did not provide details on what apartment deals or amounts of money were involved.

That time period is roughly the same as when the 7 million reais in suspicious transactions flowed through the bank account of Queiroz. (Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Peter Cooney)

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