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Brazil police probe Bolsonaro son over alleged spying

Carlos Bolsonaro (L) is under investigation regarding accusations of illegal spying that allegedy occurred during his father Jair Bolsonaro's 2019-2022 presidency (NELSON ALMEIDA)
Carlos Bolsonaro (L) is under investigation regarding accusations of illegal spying that allegedy occurred during his father Jair Bolsonaro's 2019-2022 presidency (NELSON ALMEIDA)

Police in Brazil raided the home and offices of former president Jair Bolsonaro's son Carlos on Monday as an investigation into accusations of illegal spying closed in on the far-right leader's inner circle.

The probe involves accusations Brazil's state spy agency illegally compiled intelligence and tracked the geolocation data of hundreds of perceived Bolsonaro opponents during his 2019-2022 presidency.

Federal police said they had carried out nine search and seizure warrants in the latest phase of their investigation into a "criminal organization set up in the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) to illegally monitor public officials and others."

The raids were authorized by Supreme Court justice and electoral court chief Alexandre de Moraes, who was himself an alleged target of the espionage.

His decision named Carlos Bolsonaro, a Rio de Janeiro city councilor and the second of Bolsonaro's four sons, as a probe target.

Last Thursday, police also raided the home and offices of Bolsonaro's former intelligence chief, Alexandre Ramagem, who is now a federal lawmaker for the former president's Liberal Party.

Police said they were now moving on the alleged domestic spying ring's "political core," identifying "the main recipients and beneficiaries of the information produced illegally within Abin via clandestine operations."

- 'Persecution' -

Carlos Bolsonaro's home and his offices at Rio city hall were searched in the raids.

Police said they had also targeted addresses in the capital, Brasilia, the nearby city of Formosa, the northeastern city of Salvador and resort town Angra dos Reis, 150 kilometers (95 miles) west of Rio.

Globo News TV showed the former president, 68, and Carlos Bolsonaro, 41, outside a house in Angra dos Reis as federal officers departed.

Investigators allege Abin used Israeli-made surveillance software known as FirstMile, which tracks cell phone geolocation data, and other intelligence gathering to illegally spy on figures including supreme court justices, the former lower-house speaker and a state governor.

Moraes's ruling authorizing the raids cited a WhatsApp message that an aide to Carlos Bolsonaro allegedly sent in February 2020 to an assistant to Ramagem, then Abin's director, asking for information on investigations "involving the president and three of his sons."

Bolsonaro denied wrongdoing by his family.

"None of my sons would ever make a request like that. And if they did, Mr Ramagem would have rejected it outright," he told CNN Brasil.

"I never received geolocation information on anyone. I never needed, requested or had any report from Abin," the ex-president said, condemning the investigation as "persecution."

Bolsonaro said Carlos would appear for questioning by police Tuesday, but the ex-president's adviser Fabio Wajngarten later clarified that the occasion was linked to an investigation into threats and was "not related in any way" to Monday's operation.

Bolsonaro has faced mounting legal trouble since losing a divisive election to veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2022.

In June, the electoral court barred the former army captain from running for public office for eight years over his unproven fraud allegations against Brazil's voting system.

Two of Bolsonaro's other sons have also been mentioned in court documents on the illegal espionage case.

Investigators allege the spying aimed to help Bolsonaro's son Flavio, a senator, fight off a corruption investigation, and help another son, Jair Renan, in an influence-peddling probe.

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