The former president is facing scrutiny over reports that his administration tried to bring $3.2 million worth of jewelry into Brazil.
A Brazilian court has ordered former President Jair Bolsonaro to return jewelry he reportedly received from the government of Saudi Arabia as a gift while he was president.
Brazil’s Federal Court of Audit decision on Wednesday comes days after Brazilian police launched an investigation into an alleged attempt to illegally bring into the country a batch of jewellery, valued at more than $3.2 million.
Those trinkets, which were intended for the then-president and his wife Michelle, were intercepted in 2021 by customs officials. But authorities hope to recover a second set of jewellery, valued at around $75,000, and are believed to have entered the country undetected.
Both sets of jewelry were reportedly given as gifts by the government of Saudi Arabia.
The court order issued on Wednesday gives Bolsonaro five days to turn over any jewelry offered by Saudi Arabia in his possession, as well as two guns he acquired from the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
In addition, the order began a review of all official gifts Bolsonaro received during his presidency, which lasted from 2019 to 2022.
The court also announced that the $3.2 million confiscated package of jewelry would remain in custody in the presidential offices. Members of the Bolsonaro administration previously tried unsuccessfully to release the jewelry while the far-right politician was in office.
The bundle includes a necklace, ring, watch and diamond earrings from Swiss luxury jewelry house Chopard. The jewelry was discovered in the backpack of an aide to Bolsonaro’s Energy Minister, while the employee was returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia.
President Bruno Dantas said in open court that under Brazilian law, public officials can only keep gifts of “very personal and of minimal monetary value.”
Travelers entering Brazil with goods worth more than $1,000 are also required to declare and pay heavy import taxes.
The Bolsonaro administration could have brought these items into the country tax-free as official gifts to the nation. However, they belonged to the presidential palace group, not the president and his family.
Dantas said that the presidential palace is the “legitimate owner” of the objects in question.
The case has made headlines in Brazil since it was first reported in early March in the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.
Last week, Justice Minister Flavio Dino announced an investigation into the jewelry scandal, calling on police to explore whether Bolsonaro employees attempted to cross the border “without complying with legal procedures” for government gifts or high-value items.
Bolsonaro has denied any involvement in illegal activity, telling CNN Brazil he is being “crucified” in exchange for a gift he neither asked for nor received.
However, his lawyer on Monday acknowledged the existence of the second batch of gifted jewellery, saying in a letter to police that he would provide an account of those gifts.
Bolsonaro has been living in the United States since late December, shortly before his left-wing political successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was appointed to take over. Lula defeated Bolsonaro in the October presidential run-off.
But Bolsonaro has not yet admitted defeat. He and his political allies alleged, without evidence, that Brazil’s voting system was prone to fraud, leading some supporters to call for a military coup against Lula’s presidency.
Bolsonaro is being investigated over any involvement in a January 8 attack that saw his supporters storm key government buildings in the capital, Brasilia.
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