Brazil’s Bolsonaro questioned about gifts of diamond jewelry

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Former President Jair Bolsonaro underwent questioning Wednesday about diamond jewelry gifts when he was in power, as part of an investigation into whether he engaged in any irregularities in bringing the items into Brazil.

The case has added to the legal jeopardy already surrounding the far-right politician’s time as president. He is also under investigation for any involvement in a rampage by his supporters through the national capital after he left office and for numerous actions during the presidential election campaign he lost last fall.

Federal police and prosecutors are investigating whether three sets of jewelry brought into the country from Saudi Arabia were public gifts that Bolsonaro improperly tried to prevent from being incorporated into the presidency’s public collection or were private gifts that Bolsonaro tried sneak into Brazil without paying taxes.

Brazil requires its citizens arriving by plane from abroad to declare goods worth more than $1,000 and, for any amount above that exemption, pay a tax equal to 50% of their value. The three sets of jewelry would have been exempt from tax had they been a gift from the state of Saudi Arabia to the nation of Brazil, but would not have been Bolsonaro’s to keep.

After Bolsonaro left the Federal Police headquarters in Brazil’s capital Wednesday, it wasn’t know if he answered investigator’s questions or exercised his right to stay silent. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing connected to the gifts, and said he never attempted to hide anything.

A customs agent seized one of the sets, manufactured by Swiss brand Chopard and reportedly worth some $3 million, at Sao Paulo’s international airport in October 2021 when an adviser to the then minister for mines and energy brought it into the country.

Documents and video footage published by Brazilian news

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Dispute Over Mysterious Saudi Jewelry Worth $3 Million Haunts Bolsonaro

(Bloomberg) — A dispute over $3 million worth of jewelry allegedly from Saudi Arabia is set to present another headache for former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro when he returns home from his US vacation.

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Brazil’s national comptroller on Tuesday started probing the case, which involves a cache of jewelry — including a diamond necklace, earrings and a watch made by the Swiss brand Chopard. Bolsonaro’s former Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque confirmed over the weekend that his delegation brought the items into the country — now run by leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva — as a gift from the Saudi government to Bolsonaro and his wife, Michelle, without declaring them to customs agents.

The country’s federal police also launched an investigation at the request of the justice ministry.

The case came to public attention on March 3 when newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported that Brazilian customs officials seized jewelry found inside a suitcase carried by an aide to Albuquerque as they returned from an official trip to the Middle East last October. Brazilian law requires travelers to declare goods worth more than $1,000 for tax purposes, but Albuquerque’s team failed to do so.

Public outrage has been growing in Brazil as details of the case emerge. Brazilian officials aren’t allowed to keep most valuable gifts they receive, and have to place them in public collections maintained by the state. The investigation will seek to discover whether Bolsonaro or his associates were attempting to smuggle the jewelry into Brazil, and if they sought to shield the gift from entering the president’s official collection, which would make it government property, according to the justice ministry. Potential money laundering crimes will also be considered, according to Justice Minister Flavio Dino.

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