Rio de Janeiro | Brazilian police found wads of banknotes in the underpants of a senator during a search carried out as part of an investigation into embezzlement intended for the fight against the coronavirus, several local media revealed Thursday.
Chico Rodrigues, of the right-wing DEM party, was one of the three “vice-leaders” of the Bolsonaro government in the Senate, a function of fostering dialogue between parliamentarians and the executive. He was dismissed from this post on Thursday, according to the Official Journal.
On Wednesday, his home in Boa Vista, in the state of Roraima (North), which he represents in the Senate, was searched.
The Federal Police found there 30,000 reais in cash (around 4,500 euros), part of which was in his underwear, including “between his buttocks”, several media reported, citing sources close to the investigation.
Asked by AFP, the Federal Police confined themselves to confirming that the search was part of an operation aimed “at dismantling a criminal network suspected of embezzling public funds” intended to fight against COVID-19 in Roraima.
The senator admitted in a statement that the search was legitimate insofar as he was “cited in the investigation”, but assured that he had just “done his job as a parliamentarian”, by “bringing federal funds” in. his state to fight the pandemic.
Claiming his innocence, he stressed having “confidence in justice”.
On Thursday, President Jair Bolsonaro stepped up, visibly annoyed to see his government’s image tarnished by a new affair.
“Part of the press says that, as I have appointed him deputy government leader, I am not fighting corruption,” he told supporters outside his official residence at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia.
“But this police operation is precisely an example which shows that there is no corruption within my government, we are fighting corruption, whoever is the person suspected”, he continued.
Elected two years ago by promising zero tolerance for corruption, the far-right leader has been splashed by scandals affecting his relatives, including his eldest son Flavio, also a senator.
The latter is accused of having employed ghost employees to embezzle public funds when he was regional deputy for the state of Rio de Janeiro, from 2003 to 2018.
The Head of State himself is under investigation for alleged interference in Federal Police investigations targeting his relatives.