Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro is 'Person of the Year' in organized crime, corruption

US non-profit Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) named Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro as its 2020 "Person of the Year" for his role in promoting organized crime and corruption during his administration.

The OCCRP, which gives the title to an "individual or institution that has done the most to advance organized criminal activity and corruption in a given year," made the announcement on Wednesday, December 30. 

Insteading of pushing for his anti-corruption platform, OCCRP said that Bolsonaro instead "surrounded himself with corrupt figures, used propaganda to promote his populist agenda and undermined the justice system."

Bolsonaro is accused of "salary splitting," or collecting salaries for ghost employees.

"Bolsonaro's family and his inner circle seem to be involved in an ongoing criminal conspiracy and have been regularly accused of stealing from the people. That's the textbook definition of an organized crime gang," said Drew Sullivan, OCCRP editor and judge on the panel.

Bolsonaro also had a hand in the destruction of the Amazon, enriching the country's worst land owners, according to OCCRP.

"Bolsonaro campaigned on an explicit pledge to exploit – ie destroy – the Amazon, which currently provides 20% of the world's oxygen," said panel judge Rawan Dawan, director of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism.

The non-profit said Bolsonaro "narrowly defeated" US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan – both of which profited from propaganda, undermined democratic and judicial systems, shunned multilateral agreements, and rewarded inner circles.

Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky – accused of participating in an international fraud scheme – completed the list of finalists.

"They are all populists causing great damage to their countries, regions, and the world. Unfortunately they are supported by many which is the key of populism," said Louise Shelley, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center director.

Previous OCCRP Persons of the Year include Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in 2016, and Montenegro President Milo Djukanovic in 2015.

OCCRP describes itself as a not-for-profit consortium of regional investigative centers and for-profit independent media from Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and Africa. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at