Home News Brazilian police accuse Bolsonaro of stealing Saudi jewellery

Brazilian police accuse Bolsonaro of stealing Saudi jewellery

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Brazil’s federal police have recommended criminal charges against former President Jair Bolsonaro for misappropriating jewelry given to him by foreign leaders during his presidency, according to two people briefed on the investigation, presenting another major legal challenge for the former president.

Federal police have accused Bolsonaro and 10 of his allies of trying to keep and sell expensive gifts he received from foreign governments, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Police are seeking money laundering and criminal association charges against Bolsonaro and some of his allies, including former aides.

In one case, Bolsonaro and his team tried to conceal $1 million worth of diamond jewelry that the former president had received from the Saudi Arabian government, according to past investigative documents.

In another case, documents show that Bolsonaro’s team tried to sell an 18-karat gold suit from Saudi Arabia for $50,000 at a Manhattan auction house last Valentine’s Day, but failed. In a third case, they sold two luxury watches for $68,000 at a Pennsylvania shopping mall and gave some of the cash to Bolsonaro.

While Brazilian police refer to such recommended charges as an “indictment” in Portuguese, Bolsonaro has not yet been charged. The country’s top federal prosecutor must now decide whether to charge Bolsonaro and force him to stand trial. That prosecutor and Brazil’s Supreme Court said they had not received the police recommendation as of Thursday evening.

The case is part of the legal crisis facing Brazil’s former president, who left office just 18 months ago.

In March, federal police recommended charges against Bolsonaro, accusing him of plotting Falsifying COVID-19 vaccination recordsbut federal prosecutors have not yet filed charges against him.

In February, police seized his passport and ordered him to remain in Brazil to investigate what authorities said was a A conspiracy to retain power After losing the 2022 election, Bolsonaro spent two nights at the Hungarian Embassy in the Brazilian capital, apparently seeking asylum. Security camera footage obtained by The New York Times.

The former president could face jail time if convicted on any of the charges. Legal experts believe the coup plot is most likely to result in jail time if convicted, while convictions in the jewelry or vaccination card cases could result in lighter sentences. In Brazil, former presidents are not immune from prosecution.

The jewellery is shown in photos released by Brazil’s Federal Tax Service as part of an investigation into gifts received by Bolsonaro during his term in office.Credit…Brazil’s Federal Tax Service, courtesy of the Associated Press

Bolsonaro has denied the allegations and called the investigation a political persecution. He and his lawyers have argued that the gifts are his legal property. “All former presidents had issues with foreign gifts,” Bolsonaro said. Brazilian newspaper Estadão reports last year. “This law is confusing.”

His attorney declined to comment because he has not yet seen the document proposing the charges.

Bolsonaro has long welcomed comparisons to former President Donald J. Trump, and while the two share a combative political style and far-right political stances, the legal challenges they face are increasingly similar.

Trump, who has been convicted in one case and indicted in three others, has also been accused of mishandling foreign gifts he received while president. House Democrats have accused the Trump White House of failing to properly document more than 100 foreign gifts valued at more than $250,000. Almost all of those gifts are now documented.

In Brazil, the jewelry case began in 2021 when a Brazilian government official was found with about $1 million worth of undeclared diamond jewelry after returning from an official visit to Saudi Arabia. The official told authorities that the items were gifts from Saudi officials to Bolsonaro and his wife, Michelle.

Investigative documents show that in June 2022, Bolsonaro’s personal assistant, Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, sold a diamond Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch to a jewelry store in Willow Grove Park Shopping Center in Pennsylvania. Police believe that one watch was given by Saudi Arabia and the other by Bahrain.

Police recommended that charges be laid against Mr. Cid. Signed a plea agreement His lawyers said Mr Seeder was acting on Mr Bolsonaro’s orders, but Mr Bolsonaro denies this.

Bruno Dantas, president of Brazil’s Court of Control and the federal government’s de facto auditor, said Brazilian law allows the president to keep some personal gifts, but they should not be too valuable. “If it’s a diamond necklace with the president’s name on it, he can’t have it,” Mr. Dantas told The Times last year.

A government-appointed panel that sometimes steps in to decide what is the president’s property and what belongs to the state ruled that at least some of the jewels Bolsonaro’s aides were trying to sell were personal property.

Bolsonaro’s lawyer, Paulo Cunha Bueno, said that meant the jewels legally belonged to Bolsonaro. “He can sell them,” Cunha Bueno said. told The Times last year. “If he dies, the assets go to his heirs.”

The government-appointed head of the group is among those accused by police of having a criminal gang. Brazilian Supreme Court Judge The panel overseeing the investigation has previously said it had evidence that Bolsonaro ordered it to rule the jewels were his property.

Other evidence, police say, suggests Bolsonaro and his allies tried to conceal their plot. They operated mostly in cash, for example. In one exchange on WhatsApp, Cid told a colleague that his father had deposited $25,000 for the former president. “He would hand it over to him personally,” he said. “The less money that moves through the account, the better, right?”

Police said Bolsonaro’s former lawyer Frederick Wassef flew to Pennsylvania and bought back the Saudi Rolex for $49,000 last year after Dantas, the supervisory tribunal, ordered Bolsonaro to return the jewels.

Wassev later denied the claim to Brazilian media: “I have never seen that watch.” He told Brazilian news site G1 Last year. “I dare you to prove it.”

Then there are news sites Publish receipt His name was written on it.

Police this week recommended charges of money laundering and criminal association against Mr. Wassef.

Wassef said this week that Bolsonaro did not ask him to buy the Rolex. He said he bought it voluntarily while traveling to the United States to return the Rolex to the federal government, as required by the court. “I did this solely to defend Jair Bolsonaro,” he said.

Paul Motorin Reporting from Brasilia also contributed.

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