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Carlos Bolsonaro, son of Brazil’s ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, whispers in his father’s ear during a presidential debate in 2022 AP

Brazilian police investigate Jair Bolsonaro's son for alleged spying on opponents

Police said they conducted nine searches on Monday as part of a broader investigation into the nation’s intelligence agency.

BRAZILIAN POLICE TODAY searched the homes and office of Carlos Bolsonaro, the son of former president Jair Bolsonaro and a Rio de Janeiro city councillor, two days after the Supreme Court granted the warrants.

Police said in a statement that they conducted nine searches today as part of a broader investigation into the nation’s intelligence agency and alleged spying on political opponents during Bolsonaro’s term, which ended in December 2022.

In a decision made public today, Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said police claim they have identified a group, of which Carlos Bolsonaro is allegedly part, that “monitored ‘political enemies’ and sought information about the existence of investigations related to the children of the then president of the Republic Jair Messias Bolsonaro.”

Images broadcast on TV network GloboNews showed Carlos and his father outside the latter’s residence in Angra dos Reis, south of Rio de Janeiro.

Police searched the former president’s house for any electronic devices, including phones and laptops, belonging to Carlos.

The two men, along with two of Carlos’ brothers, MP Eduardo and senator Flavio, had been on a fishing trip since 5am when they heard of the warrants, the former president’s lawyer, Fabio Wajngarten, said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Flavio accused the police of being on a “fishing expedition”, according to a report by one of the country’s main independent newspapers, O Globo.

Carlos Bolsonaro’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP.

Today’s operation comes days after federal police searched the office and home of the former chief of Brazil’s intelligence agency under Bolsonaro, Alexandre Ramagem, and a dozen other people.

Police statements and Supreme Court documents show police are investigating an “organised crime” group that operated within the intelligence agency, known by its Portuguese acronym ABIN, during Bolsonaro’s term.

The group allegedly used the agency’s tools and services for political use and personal gain.

The group is also suspected of seeking to interfere with ongoing police investigations, some of which targeted or involved two of Bolsonaro’s other sons, Jair Renan and Flavio.

Police suspect ABIN under Ramagem used a software known as FirstMile, developed by Israeli company Cognyte, “to monitor targets and public authorities … with the aim of creating false narratives”, according to Supreme Court documents.

The software allows the geolocalisation of mobile phones.

De Moraes, the Supreme Court Justice, said in its decision that police had identified more than 60,500 uses of the software between 2019 and 2021.

O Globo, which broke the story in May, reported that ABIN agents used the software to monitor political figures and journalists.

Today’s police statement said the latest operation sought to advance the political side of the investigation, to “identify the main recipients and beneficiaries of illegally produced information”.

On Sunday night, Jair Bolsonaro conducted a two-and-a-half-hour-long live broadcast on social media, along with three of his sons, including Carlos.

The broadcast was done from a house in the seaside city of Angra dos Reis.

In the video, the Bolsonaros defended Ramagem and criticised the investigation, with the former president calling the idea of a parallel intelligence unit “fantastical”.

Local outlets reported on Ramagem’s ties with the Bolsonaro family since the presidential campaign of 2018.

Then a federal police officer, Ramagem served as one of Jair Bolsonaro’s security coordinators, O Globo reported.

Bolsonaro appointed Ramagem to lead ABIN in May 2019.

The right-wing leader had previously appointed him to be federal police chief but quickly yielded to growing criticism around the nomination for Ramagem was widely seen as too close to the president’s family, and that he might give members preferential treatment.

In a March 2020 TV interview, Gustavo Bebianno, who had acted as one of the former president’s key aides and as a Cabinet minister before being sacked, said Carlos had spoken to him about creating a parallel intelligence unit within the agency.

“One fine day, Carlos shows up with the name of a federal detective and three agents who would form a parallel ABIN, because he didn’t trust ABIN,” Bebianno told TV programme Roda Viva shortly before his death in 2020.

“We advised the president not to do anything of the sort … After I left, I don’t know if this was implemented or not.”

Less than two weeks after the interview, Bebianno died suddenly from a heart attack, according to his family.

O Globo, which is based in Rio, reported that law enforcement had seized a computer that belonged to ABIN in one of the addresses mentioned in the warrants.

The agency’s press department told the AP in an email it was investigating the claim.

Press Association