Brazil's Bolsonaro indicted for alleged money laundering of undeclared diamonds from Saudi Arabia

Brazil's Bolsonaro indicted for alleged money laundering of undeclared diamonds from Saudi Arabia
Ex-Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro has been indicted for alleged money laundering of undeclared diamonds from Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
Federal Police accused Bolsonaro of attempting to sneak in diamond jewellery reportedly worth $3 million and selling two luxury watches last year [GETTY]

The indictment of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for money laundering and criminal association in connection with undeclared diamonds from Saudi Arabia marked the far-right leader's second formal accusation with more potentially in store.

Two sources with knowledge of the case confirmed Thursday's indictment by Federal Police, which followed another formal accusation in May against Bolsonaro for allegedly falsifying his COVID-19 vaccination certificate. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to speak publicly.

Brazil's Supreme Court has yet to receive the police report with the latest indictment. Once it does, the country's prosecutor-general, Paulo Gonet, will analyse the document, decide whether to file charges and force Bolsonaro to stand trial.

The indictment dramatically raises the legal threats facing the divisive ex-leader that are applauded by his opponents but denounced as political persecution by his supporters.

Bolsonaro did not immediately comment, but he and his lawyers have previously denied wrongdoing in those cases and other investigations into the former president. One is probing his possible involvement in inciting an uprising in the capital, Brasilia, on 8 January last year to oust his successor from power.

Last year, Federal Police accused Bolsonaro of attempting to sneak in diamond jewellery reportedly worth $3 million and selling two luxury watches.

Police said in August that Bolsonaro received cash from the nearly $70,000 sale of two luxury watches he received as gifts from Saudi Arabia. Brazil requires its citizens arriving by plane from abroad to declare goods worth more than $1,000 and pay a tax equal to 50% of their value for any amount above that exemption.

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The jewellery would have been exempt from tax had it been a gift from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, but not Bolsonaro's to keep for himself. Instead, it would have been added to the presidential collection.

The investigation showed that Mauro Cid, Bolsonaro's former aide-de-camp who allegedly falsified his COVID-19 records, sold a Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch to a store in the US in June 2022 for a total of $68,000. They were gifted by Saudi Arabia's government in 2019. Cid later signed a plea bargain with authorities and confirmed it all.

Flávio Bolsonaro, the former president's eldest son and a sitting senator, said on X after Thursday's indictment that persecution against his father was "blatant and shameless."

In addition to Bolsonaro, police indicted ten others, including Cid and two of his lawyers, Frederick Wassef and Fábio Wajngarten, according to one of the sources.

Wassef said in a statement that he didn't have access to the investigation's final report and decried selective leaks to the press of an investigation that is supposed to be proceeding under seal.

"I am going through all of this solely for practicing law in defense of Jair Bolsonaro," he wrote.

On X, Wajngarten said police have found no evidence implicating him. "The Federal Police knows I did nothing related to what they are investigating, but they still want to punish me because I provide unwavering and permanent defense for former President Bolsonaro," he said.