By Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro faced mounting legal pressure on Friday, as investigators probed his personal finances and communications while a jailed former aide mulled confessing to playing a key role in a jewelry-peddling scheme masterminded by the ex-president.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, narrowly missed re-election last year. He has faced the prospect of legal jeopardy since his baseless claims of electoral fraud sparked an election denial movement after the October victory by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the current president. Thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters invaded Brazilia government buildings on Jan. 8.
A congressional inquiry surrounding those riots, along with police investigations overseen by the Supreme Court, have steadily deepened Bolsonaro’s legal exposure since he begrudgingly left office.
Supreme Court Justive Alexandre de Moraes has authorized the breaking of Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle’s confidential phone and bank records, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday. The ruling, first reported by local media on Thursday night, will give police greater ability to investigate the multiple allegations of wrongdoing Bolsonaro faces.
The Supreme Court declined to comment.
“Why break my banking and tax secrecy? Just ask me!” Michelle Bolsonaro posted on Instagram on Friday. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that this political persecution … is aimed at tarnishing my family name and making me give up. They won’t! I am at peace.”
The police access to the Bolsonaros’ phone and bank records capped a day of setbacks for the former president.
On Thursday morning, in a televised congressional probe into the Jan. 8 insurrection, a computer programmer told lawmakers that Bolsonaro last year asked him to tamper with an electronic voting machine to undermine faith in the electoral system.
The hacker, Walter Delgatti, said Bolsonaro told him in August to discuss the idea with Defense Ministry officials and offered to pardon him if he suffered legal consequences. Bolsonaro confirmed the meeting, but denied Delgatti’s accusations.
Later on Thursday, news magazine Veja reported that Bolsonaro’s former right-hand man Mauro Cid planned to confess his involvement in crimes related to the alleged sale of jewelry gifted by foreign governments. The Veja report, which cited the jailed Cid’s lawyer Cezar Bitencourt, said he would accuse Bolsonaro of being the mastermind of the racket.
Bitencourt subsequently told other local news outlets the same thing, confirming Veja’s original report. However, on Friday, Estado de S. Paulo reported that Bitencourt had walked back some of his claims, saying Cid would not confess about the jewels. Bitencourt did not respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes and David Gregorio)
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