BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian Senator Chico Rodrigues was caught in a police raid with money hidden between his buttcheeks on Wednesday, a judicial source briefed on the matter told Reuters, amid an investigation into the misuse of COVID-19 response funding.
In the senate, Rodrigues represents the northern state of Roraima and had also been chosen as deputy leader for the agenda of the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, who won the presidency campaigning heavily on ending the corruption of previous governments.
On Thursday afternoon, Rodrigues was suspended from the Senate for 90 days by Supreme Court Justice Luís Roberto Barroso, who said the senate could decide whether to make the move permanent.
“The police team possesses a video of the second personal search that was carried out,” Barroso wrote in the Thursday decision.
“However, in this case, considering the manner in which the money was hidden by Senator Chico Rodrigues – quite deeply in his underwear – I will not reproduce these images in this report so as not to cause greater embarrassment.”
Rodrigues confirmed in a statement that his house was raided, without giving details. He denied wrongdoing and said he had been clean throughout his 30 years in politics.
His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the cash allegedly found down his pants, an incident that was widely reported in major Brazilian newspapers, citing unnamed sources.
The federal police declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the investigation. In a statement on Wednesday, the police said they had carried out raids as part of an investigation into the possible misuse of congressional funding directed to the health secretary in Roraima to pay for the COVID-19 response.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro said the police raid was evidence that his government was fighting graft.
“There is no corruption in my government and we fight corruption, whoever it is,” he told supporters outside his official residence.
Bolsonaro’s anti-graft credentials have faltered since the presidential campaign. His former justice minister Sergio Moro, an immensely popular ex-judge who was known for his tough stance on corruption, resigned earlier this year, alleging Bolsonaro had sought to interfere in a police investigation for personal gain, an allegation Bolsonaro denies.
The president’s son is under investigation for graft in Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonaro and his son deny wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Jake Spring; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Daniel Wallis)