A Brazilian congressional commission voted unanimously Thursday in favor of recommending criminal charges against far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro for allegedly misusing campaign funds.
The decision comes after a month-long investigation found that $822,000 worth of spending by his campaign was not properly registered. The spending has been referred to federal prosecutors who will now have 60 days to decide whether to forward the case to the federal public prosecutor for final decision.
According to a report issued last week by the country’s Audit Court, which led the investigation, Bolsonaro used a campaign financing bill created for good causes to buy campaign paraphernalia, including T-shirts with slogans that appeared to be supportive of the far-right candidate. He also broke other laws by “misusing” money from the state bank Caixa Economica Federal, including money given to him in order to comply with financial regulations.
The federal government has responded to the scandal, saying it would take legal action against all of the people involved. Bolsonaro himself did not take part in the investigation.
“No one should be given a higher power’s impunity. Nothing is more important than integrity,” he told reporters after Thursday’s vote. “There should not be impunity. No one is above the law. There have been bad people in previous governments, in previous governments, in previous governments. It happened. It’s time for the real change.”
Bolsonaro’s political career has been rattled by several scandals that have plagued his campaign, including that of his choice for interim environment minister, Edson Duarte, who was named to the post but later barred from doing so by Brazil’s ethics watchdog. Duarte had previously worked for a group trying to topple Brazil’s leftist government.
Some other social-rights activisits also claimed that Bolsonaro had used social media to spread hateful messages and cartoons that had been deemed racist and anti-Semitic.