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Brazil police target leader of Jair Bolsonaro’s party in political scandal

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech during the appointment ceremony of the new heads of public banks, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on January 7, 2019. – Brazil’s Finance Minister Paulo Guedes appointed the new presidents of the country’s public banks. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP)

Federal police in Brazil on Tuesday raided the home of the head of President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right party as part of a probe into a campaign financing scandal.

Police said they searched nine locations, including Luciano Bivar’s residence in Recife in the country’s northeast and the headquarters of the ultraconservative Social Liberal Party (PSL) in the same city.

The PSL has been accused of nominating mostly female fake candidates in the 2018 general election to divert public funds to its coffers — a tactic some political parties in Brazil are suspected of using in the past.

The scandal has dogged the presidency of Bolsonaro, who was swept to power in large part on a promise to stamp out corruption.

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In February, Bolsonaro sacked his close aide and former PSL chief Gustavo Bebianno, who played a key role in his election campaign, as the scandal erupted.

Bolsonaro’s tourism minister, Marcelo Alvaro Antonio, who also belongs to the PSL, has been charged over his involvement in the scheme, though he denies it.

The latest twist in the ongoing scandal comes amid growing tensions between Bolsonaro and the PSL — his ninth party in three decades of politics.

Bolsonaro’s spokesman said Monday that “any marriage (could) end in divorce,” before adding that a split was not on the agenda, “at least for the moment.”

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