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Brazil: Bolsonaro accused of embezzling $1.2m in undeclared jewellery from Saudi Arabia

Police reports found links between the former president and a criminal organisation in charge of the embezzlement
 Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Osaka, Japan, June 2019 (AFP)
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Osaka, Japan, June 2019 (AFP)

Brazilian federal police allege that a crime ring linked to former President Jair Bolsonaro attempted to embezzle jewellery worth at least 6.8 million Brazilian reals (about $1.26m) during his time in office.

The investigative report, unsealed on Monday by Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court, comes just days after Bolsonaro was indicted for embezzlement, asset laundering and criminal association in connection with the jewellery, which includes luxury items from Saudi Arabia.

Reuters reported last week that the jewellery, some made by the Swiss company Chopard, was valued at $3.2m. The items included a diamond necklace, ring, watch and earrings, which were given to Bolsonaro and the former first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, during his time in office.

In October 2021, customs officials at Sao Paulo’s international airport seized some of the luxury items found in the backpack of a government aide returning from Riyadh.

The 476-page federal police investigation, revealed by the supreme court on Monday, found evidence of “a criminal association geared towards the embezzlement of high-value gifts received as a result of the ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s office and/or by Brazilian government delegations that were acting in his name during international trips… which could later be sold overseas”.

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The investigators added: “The sums obtained through these sales were converted into cash and incorporated into the ex-president’s personal patrimony, through intermediaries and without using the formal banking system, in order to hide the origin, whereabouts and ownership of those sums.”

Brazil’s prosecutor general, Paulo Gonet, will analyse the report and decide whether to file charges and force Bolsonaro to stand trial.

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According to the AP, the jewellery 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". It would have been added to the presidential collection instead.

The police report indicts 10 people besides the former president, including two of his lawyers, a retired army general and a former energy minister.

One compromising screenshot purportedly shows a WhatsApp conversation between Bolsonaro and his aide-de-camp, Mauro Cid.

Cid was allegedly responsible for selling many luxury gifts, including watches from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the US.

In the conversation, Bolsonaro seems aware that some of the jewellery in question was about to be auctioned in the US.

Federal police said Bolsonaro’s phone included other references to the auctioning company Fortuna.

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