Businessman Jair Bolsonaro named in US money laundering investigation

By Sarah Murnick and Anthony Faiola The Washington Post Businessman Jair Bolsonaro named in US money laundering investigation The Brazilian diplomat who was known as “The Butcher” after allegedly running one of Venezuela’s most…

Businessman Jair Bolsonaro named in US money laundering investigation

By Sarah Murnick and Anthony Faiola

The Washington Post

Businessman Jair Bolsonaro named in US money laundering investigation

The Brazilian diplomat who was known as “The Butcher” after allegedly running one of Venezuela’s most violent drug trafficking enterprises and helping fund Venezuela’s failed socialist revolution has been extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges.

Jair Bolsonaro, 54, faces 13 charges, including two counts of conspiracy to launder money and four charges of obstruction of justice, according to a Justice Department statement released Friday. According to the department, Bolsonaro’s companies received a “substantial amount of money” that Bolsonaro “falsely declared as proceeds of a legitimate business transaction.”

The attorney general says he “spent money associated with drug trafficking to support the governance of his home country and the governing party of the socialist Venezuelan president,” Nicolas Maduro.

Bolsonaro is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles court on Monday.

This is the first time the U.S. government has extradited a case involving Bolsonaro, according to a Justice Department spokesman. Bolsonaro is believed to have moved from Brazil to France, where he lived from 2014 to 2016. France’s Directorate of Finance has continued to investigate Bolsonaro and other Brazilian officials on money laundering charges, though that investigation has yet to yield any indictments, a spokesman for France’s judicial police said.

Bolsonaro is accused of acting as a financier for Maduro’s populist government, which has drastically increased state intervention in the economy and helped fuel the Venezuelan currency’s collapse.

The U.S. government began investigating Bolsonaro in March 2017, according to the DOJ. At that time, Bolsonaro had fled Brazil. Bolsonaro has denied ever laundering money.

Brazilian prosecutors say Bolsonaro, nicknamed “The Butcher,” was the head of the largest smuggling group in the country’s most populous state, Parana. He has been known to shoot at street peddlers and kidnap prostitutes to extort money from them, according to the DOJ’s statement. Bolsonaro was sentenced in a 1997 drug smuggling case in the United States and in Brazil. In a court ruling in March, Brazil’s Supreme Court granted Bolsonaro the right to stay in the country.

Before fleeing Brazil, Bolsonaro traveled extensively with Maduro to Europe, Russia and Nicaragua, according to a criminal complaint signed by two FBI agents. Bolsonaro is accused of illegally transferring at least $1.3 million from the United States to Bolsonaro’s companies that were in Venezuela. One of those companies is Axios Capital Partners, an investment firm in Miami that belongs to Bolsonaro’s wife, Marcelo Aragao.

Though Bolsonaro had been referred to as “Mr. Investor” by Maduro, the accusation against him is far more serious, according to Steven Wagner, who was the top official on the Miami field office’s investment crimes unit at the time the case was filed.

“The charges that were brought in this case were of a far greater magnitude and international than just stealing. These were money laundering charges,” Wagner said.

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