President Jair Bolsonaro’s deputy senate leader resigned from his position after Brazil’s federal police caught him with Covid assistance money stuffed in his underpants, according to the local press.
The government confirmed Thursday afternoon that Senator Chico Rodrigues was the target of an investigation into the embezzlement of 20 million reais ($3.5 million) in public funds intended to combat the pandemic. Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso suspended Rodrigues from his term as lawmaker for 90 days while the investigation is ongoing.
Rodrigues had his residence in the northern state of Roraima searched on Wednesday as part of the investigation. He said in a statement he would resign while he works to prove his innocence.
The operation comes less than one week after Bolsonaro
said he was ending Brazil’s long-running Carwash probe because his administration is free of corruption. On Thursday the president said the police investigation shows his team continues to fight corruption and isn’t involved in any wrongdoing.
“My government are the cabinet members, the state companies and banks,” he said.
Yet the incident risks casting a pall over the Bolsonaro administration’s claim to cleanliness, according to 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.”
Read more: Bolsonaro Says Brazil Is Corruption-Free, Ends Carwash Probe
Cesar said Rodrigues was an experienced and reliable politician and added that changing leaders at this moment could be traumatic for the legislature. 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 Co.
The police operation included searches of the residences and offices of other politicians in the state of Roraima, where 52,848 people have been infected by coronavirus, with 676 deaths so far. According to local media outlets more than 30,000 reais ($5,500) were found in the legislator’s home. Barroso’s ruling says some of the bills were found in the underwear the senator was wearing.
(Adding content of Barroso ruling in graf 2 and leaked police investigation in last graf.)
Bolsonaro Ally Resigns After Covid Cash Found in Underpants – Bloomberg