BRASILIA, Brazil — 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 outlets appear to show supposed emissaries of Bolsonaro making multiple unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the seized jewelry, up until just days before the end of his presidency.
A government watchdog ordered Bolsonaro to return the remaining jewelry to the state-owned Caixa Economica Federal bank. He returned one set on March 24. The other was delivered on Tuesday, Bolsonaro’s former comunications chief, Fábio Wajngarten, wrote on Twitter.
Source: abc News