Federal police in Brazil have announced that the nephew of former President Jair Bolsonaro is under investigation in connection with the January 8 attack on government buildings in Brasilia.
Leonardo Rodrigues de Jesus, also known as Leo Índio, is the first member of the Bolsonaro family to be publicly targeted by the investigations.
His home was searched in a series of raids on Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into the perpetrators of the attacks by pro-Bolson supporters.
“Today, federal police are executing 11 preventive arrest warrants and 27 search and seizure warrants against coup plotters and terrorists,” Brazilian Justice Minister Flávio Dino announced on Twitter on Friday. “The authority of the law is greater than the extremists.”
On January 8, de Jesus posted photos and videos from the Triforce Square in Brasilia, where hundreds of far-right protesters had gathered to protest the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva a week earlier.
Some of the protesters called on the military to restore Bolsonaro to power, after his narrow run-off defeat against Lula in October. The crowd broke through security barricades, stormed the buildings representing the three branches of government – Congress, the Supreme Court and the Planalto presidential palace – and caused significant damage.
In a selfie posted on his social media, de Jesus stands with red eyes in the middle of protesters, which he attributes to tear gas. He accused the police of targeting the protesters, writing: “You are looking for real hooligans, but also cowards disguised as patriots.”
Officials called the January 8 events the worst attack on Brazil’s government since its return to democracy in the 1980s.
Brazil’s Supreme Court, headed by Judge Alexandre de Moraes, has since issued search warrants for homes and offices belonging to a number of individuals, including Ibaneis Rocha, the governor of Brasilia, who de Moraes suspended for 90 days.
Federal police previously said the aim of the raids was to identify those “who participated in, financed or encouraged” anti-democratic protests. Possible charges could include crimes against democracy and criminal conspiracy.
Dino, the justice minister, welcomed the police investigations, calling the protestors “coups”.
De Jesus previously used his social media platform to share false information about October’s presidential election and far-right protests, including the baseless claim that the January 8 events were infiltrated by violent leftists.
In 2022, de Jesus also ran for public office, losing his campaign to become a Federal District Councilor.
However, he maintained personal and professional relationships with Bolsonaro and his sons, particularly Carlos Bolsonaro, a member of the Rio de Janeiro city council and head of his father’s digital operations.
Carlos Bolsonaro hired de Jesus as an assistant in Rio de Janeiro, before de Jesus moved to Brasilia. There, de Jesus took positions as part of the senatorial cabinet and as an adviser to Bolsonaro’s conservative Liberal Party in the Senate.
However, he lost his position after media reports revealed he served as a “phantom employee,” collecting paychecks but not showing up for work.
As of 2021, officials in Rio de Janeiro are also investigating de Jesus after allegations emerged that Flavio Bolsonaro, another of the former president’s sons, transferred money to de Jesus from his city council cabinet. De Jesus also allegedly received public funds for his rent.
Brazil’s Supreme Court requested that de Jesus be placed in preventive custody for his role in the January 8 attack, but police have so far not arrested him. De Jesus stated that he did not have the money to pay his lawyers to appeal the order.
Friday’s raids are the latest in a series of measures underway to crack down on anti-government forces in Brazil.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Moraes fined messaging platform Telegram 1.2 million Brazilian reais ($234,865) for failing to suspend accounts linked to disinformation among pro-Bolsonaro supporters, as ordered by a court ruling.
And on January 21, Lula fired the army chief, General Julio Cesar de Arruda, for disobeying a government order to clear the camp of pro-Bolsonaro supporters who had taken part in the January 8 attack.