Jair Bolsonaro plans return to Brazil as prosecutors seek to seize assets

Jair Bolsonaro said he was preparing to leave the US and return home within the next few weeks, as prosecutors in Brazil sought to freeze the former president’s assets following riots in the capital by his radical followers.

The far-right populist has come under fire in the wake of an attack on the government quarter in Brasília on Sunday by thousands of extremists calling for the overthrow of the new government led by veteran leftwinger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro has been in Florida since the end of last year when his term in office ended, after narrowly losing an election to his bitter political foe.

“I came [to the US] to stay until the end of the month [January], but I intend to bring forward my return,” he told CNN Brasil.

After trespassers invaded and ransacked the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace, the White House has faced calls from prominent politicians to expel Bolsonaro. Critics in the US and Brazil have accused the former president of fomenting extremism and disrespect towards democratic institutions.

Public prosecutors in the Latin American nation on Tuesday submitted a request to the federal audit court for Bolsonaro’s assets to be seized. Officials said the money should go towards paying to repair public property damaged during the disturbances.

Investigators have also expanded a probe into the organisers and financiers of the incidents in Brazil’s capital. People in the country’s powerful agricultural sector are under scrutiny, according to the justice minister.

Bolsonaro, who is subject to multiple legal investigations in his home country, has distanced himself from the attacks, which he said “crossed the line”.

But he appears to have pre-empted any potential expulsion from his trip abroad and is expected to travel back voluntarily.

The 67-year-old was admitted to a hospital on Monday with abdominal pains related to injuries sustained when he was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018.

Bolsonaro told CNN Brasil that doctors in Brazil were more familiar with his intestinal obstruction, which had resulted in previous hospital stays.

“I came to spend some time away with the family. But I didn’t have calm days. First, there was this regrettable episode [on Sunday] in Brazil and then this hospitalisation of mine,” he added.

A person close to the Bolsonaro family said the ex-president wanted to seek treatment from medics in his homeland.

His departure would ease a problem for the administration of US president Joe Biden. Democratic lawmakers Joaquin Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among those demanding Bolsonaro be kicked out.

Bolsonaro has rejected Lula’s allegations that he encouraged the violent disorder. In scenes redolent of the US Capitol invasion two years earlier, perpetrators trashed government buildings, which were unoccupied because of a summer recess. Hundreds of people have been arrested and detained.

“Do not try to create a narrative of lies as if Bolsonaro had any connection with these irresponsible acts,” Bolsonaro’s son Flávio, a senator, said during a Senate session on Tuesday. He added that his father had been “virtually incommunicado” since the election loss.

Renan Calheiros, a prominent Brazilian senator, had previously asked the country’s Supreme Court for the “immediate” extradition of the former president, saying his involvement in Sunday’s disorder was “undeniable”.

Additional reporting by Carolina Ingizza in São Paulo

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