An investigation by news website UOL found 107 property registrations in the name of President Jair Bolsonaro and members of his family — and that transactions for almost half of these properties (51) were fully or partially paid in cash.
Paying for property in cash is not illegal, but it is heavily associated with money-laundering schemes, as it prevents law enforcement from tracing the funds’ origin. Fabiano Angélico, a former Transparency Brazil consultant, wrote on Twitter about the case: “Buying one piece of real estate in cash is suspicious. [Buying] several properties in cash is very suspicious. But politically-exposed people buying several pieces of property in cash? Extremely suspicious.”
Purchases totaled BRL 25.6 million (USD 5 million) when adjusted for inflation. The properties are in the name of the president, his children, ex-wives, brothers, and mother, who died in January.
At least 25 of the properties were included in investigations, such as one involving suspected corruption in the office of Flávio Bolsonaro, the president’s eldest son, during his time as a state lawmaker in Rio de Janeiro. He owns 17 properties, including a BRL 6 million mansion in Brasília’s most luxurious neighborhood.
The purchase of the house in which President Bolsonaro lives in Rio was also a target of investigation. It was purchased at below market price and for less than the previous owner had paid a few months earlier.
Other investigations indicate the common use of cash in the family. Those involved in politics donate large amounts to their own campaigns, their former staffers withdrew part of their salaries in cash, and one ally was filmed paying tuition fees for Flávio Bolsonaro’s daughters in the same way.
Brazil’s money laundering enforcement agency Coaf — the only authority with the power to monitor suspicious transactions between banks — lost part of its autonomy during the Bolsonaro government. The agency became linked to the Justice and then Economy Ministries, and later to the Central Bank — and it suffered budget cuts. Former Minister of Justice Sergio Moro has already said that the president was afraid that Coaf investigations would reach his sons.
The president and his family did not respond to UOL’s requests for comment. “What’s the problem with using cash to buy a property?” Mr. Bolsonaro said today, in response to a question about UOL’s findings put to him as he left a campaign event with trade sector representatives. The president added that he had not read about the investigation.