Bolsonaro embezzled $1.2 million in Saudi jewelry

July 9, 2024
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Brazil’s Federal Police allege former President Jair Bolsonaro embezzled jewelry worth 6.8 million Brazilian reals (about $1.2 million) during his time in office, according to the investigative report unsealed Monday by the Supreme Court.

Bolsonaro was indicted last week charging embezzlement, asset laundering and criminal association in connection with the luxury jewelry from Saudi Arabia. The investigation adds pressure on the far-right leader who governed in 2019-2022 before losing his reelection bid to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He has already lost his political rights until 2030.

Bolsonaro hasn’t commented on the indictment, but has previously denied any wrongdoing involving the jewelry.

The police report alleges there was “a criminal association for the embezzlement of high-value gifts that were received due to the position of former President Jair Bolsonaro.” The jewelry included diamond-encrusted Rolex and Patek Phillipe watches, a necklace, rings and cufflinks, among other items. The report says some of the presents were given to government staffers acting on Bolsonaro’s behalf during international trips.

The Associated Press reported Bolsonaro’s indictment Thursday based on information given by two sources with knowledge of the investigation, but the unsealing of the report by Brazil’s Supreme Court provided a complete view of the allegations.

Brazil’s prosecutor-general, Paulo Gonet, will analyze the police report and decide whether to file charges and force the far-right leader to stand trial.

The jewelry would have been tax exempt had it been a gift from Saudi Arabia to the nation of Brazil, but not Bolsonaro’s to keep for himself. Rather, it would have been incorporated into the presidential collection.

The police report said Bolsonaro’s family received “revenue obtained through the illegal sale” of the jewelry. The investigation found the funds were incorporated by the former president without the use of Brazil’s banking system as a way to hide the origin, the report said.

During his first public speech after the accusations came to light, at a conservative conference in southern Brazil on Saturday, the 69-year-old former army captain did not address the issue. But he and his lawyers have previously denied any wrongdoing in the case as well as in other of his actions that are under investigation.

Argentine President Javier Milei, one of Bolsonaro’s allies, accused Brazil of promoting a legal witch hunt against the former president.

Brazil’s police say Bolsonaro embezzled $1.2 million in undeclared jewelry from Saudi Arabia
Argentina’s President Javier Milei gestures to the audience at CPAC in Balneario Camboriu, Brazil, on Sunday.Heuler Andrey / AP

Bolsonaro’s indictment in the jewelry case followed another formal accusation in March accusing the former leader of falsifying his COVID-19 vaccination certificate. He is also the target of an investigation into possible involvement in inciting a January 2023 uprising in the capital of Brasilia that sought to oust his successor.

The police report unsealed Monday indicts 10 others, including two of Bolsonaro’s lawyers, a retired army general and a former energy minister of his administration.

The document recounts one exchange between Bolsonaro and a former top aide to suggest the Brazilian leader was aware that some of the jewelry in question was about to be auctioned in the U.S. Federal Police said Bolsonaro’s phone included other references to Fortuna Auction, the auctioning company.

Police said a second package of luxury jewelry seized in customs was also addressed to Bolsonaro, whose administration made repeated efforts to secure their release. The then president received the package on Nov. 29, 2022, the report said.

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