Brazil Police Accuse Bolsonaro of Embezzling $1.2 Million in Saudi Jewelry

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SAO PAULO — Brazil’s Supreme Court has released a police report accusing former President Jair Bolsonaro of pocketing approximately 6.8 million Brazilian reals ($1.2 million) worth of jewelry during his presidency, the court disclosed on Monday.

Last week, Bolsonaro faced charges including embezzlement, asset laundering, and being part of a criminal group stemming from his alleged misappropriation of lavish gifts from Saudi Arabia. The charges intensify the scrutiny on the right-wing leader who served from 2019 to 2022 before being defeated by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in his re-election attempt.

A photo released by Brazil’s Federal Revenue Department illustrates some of the confiscated jewelry tied to the former president, collected by customs at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro, who has yet to comment on the charges, has previously refuted any allegations of misconduct linked to the jewelry.

According to the police, there was an organized effort to siphon off luxury items intended as state gifts, including high-end watches, a necklace, and other fine jewelry. These items were supposedly acquired by government aides on international visits on Bolsonaro’s instructions.

With the report now public, Brazil’s prosecutor-general, Paulo Gonet, is evaluating whether to formally charge Bolsonaro, which could lead to a trial.

Authorities noted that the jewelry, if designated as gifts to Brazil, would be tax-exempt and become part of the country’s presidential collection instead of personal property.

Investigations also revealed that Bolsonaro’s family benefited from proceeds from the unlawful sale of some items, bypassing the national banking system to conceal their origin.

During his recent address at a conservative conference, Bolsonaro, aged 69, did not discuss these allegations. However, he and his legal team have consistently denied any wrongdoing in this and all other ongoing investigations.

Argentine President Javier Milei, a supporter of Bolsonaro, has criticized Brazil’s actions as a politically motivated “legal witch hunt.”

Further complications for Bolsonaro include his facing another recent charge of falsifying a COVID-19 vaccination certificate in March and investigations into his supposed role in a January 2023 insurrection attempt in Brasilia.

Additionally, the released report implicates ten individuals, including two of Bolsonaro’s attorneys, a retired army general, and a former minister in his government. The police claim Bolsonaro was aware of plans to auction some of the disputed jewelry in the U.S. Evidence from Bolsonaro’s phone, linking to the auction company Fortuna Auction, supports these claims.

For ongoing updates and coverage on this matter and other stories from Latin America and the Caribbean, visit the Associated Press’s dedicated section.

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