Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s deputy senate leader resigned from his position after Brazil’s federal police caught him with COVID-19 assistance money stuffed in his underpants, according to local press.
The government on Thursday confirmed that Brazilian Senator Chico Rodrigues was the target of an investigation into the embezzlement of 20 million reais (US$3.6 million) in public funds intended to combat the pandemic.
Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso suspended Rodrigues from his term as lawmaker for 90 days while the investigation is ongoing.
Photo: AFP / Brazilian Senate / Marcos Oliveira
Rodrigues’ residence in the northern state of Roraima was searched on Wednesday as part of the investigation.
He said in a statement that he would resign while he works to prove his innocence.
The operation comes less than one week after Bolsonaro said that he was ending Brazil’s long-running Carwash probe because his administration is free of corruption.
The president on Thursday said the police investigation shows his team continues to fight corruption and is not involved in any wrongdoing.
“My government are the cabinet members, the state companies and banks,” he said.
The incident risks casting a pall over the Bolsonaro administration’s claim to cleanliness, said Andre Cesar, an independent political analyst.
“This weakens the government’s stance on corruption,” Cesar said. “And in terms of political coalition, it makes the situation more difficult in Congress, especially in a moment where they have important reforms and the budget to vote on.”
Rodrigues was an experienced and reliable politician and changing leaders at this moment could be traumatic for the legislature, Cesar said.
Last year, the senator also led a delegation of five lawmakers on an all-expenses-paid trip to China, courtesy of the Chinese government, were they viewed a showroom belonging to Huawei Technologies (華為).
The police operation included searches of the residences and offices of other politicians in Roraima, where 52,848 people have been infected by COVID-19, with 676 deaths.
According to local news reports, more than 30,000 reais were found in the legislator’s home.
Barroso’s ruling says some of the bills were found in the underwear the senator was wearing.
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