The President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva-led Brazil government has ordered a police investigation into allegations that government staff under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, tried to bring millions of dollars worth of jewellery into the country.
While announcing the probe, Justice Minister Flávio Dino called on police to explore whether Bolsonaro’s staff tried to cross the border “without complying with legal procedures” for government gifts or high-value items.
It is germane to note that the announcement follows a report in the O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper that a former aide tried to bring $3.2m of jewellery into the country without declaring it, as a gift from the Saudi Arabian government to Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle.
It was alleged that customs officials confiscated the jewellery from the backpack of a government staffer returning from Saudi Arabia in October 2021, while Bolsonaro was still in office. According to Friday’s newspaper report, the backpack contained a diamond necklace, a ring, a watch and earrings designed by Chopard, a luxury Swiss jeweller.
Reacting to the accusation, Bolsonaro denied any involvement in illegal activity. He told newsmen that he was being “crucified” for a gift he neither requested nor received.
Law in Brazil has it that any item brought into the country worth more than $1,000 is subject to taxes. Critics also say that, as a gift to the state, the jewellery should have been documented and surrendered to the government as part of the presidential collection.
The former aide had travelled to Riyadh with Bolsonaro’s Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque.
Sadly, the jewellery allegations add to a growing list of scandals and potential legal troubles faced by Bolsonaro, Brazil’s former far-right president.
Recall that Bolsonaro was narrowly defeated in his pursuit of a second term during an October 2022 run-off election, with the left-leaning Lula finishing ahead in the race.
In the build-up to the vote, Bolsonaro reportedly spread false claims that Brazil’s voting system was rigged against him, raising alarm that he would not abide by the results of the election.
Shockingly, the Ex-President who yet to concede defeat, left for the United States two days before the end of his term.
His supporters had in January stormed key government buildings in the Brazilian capital, calling for a military coup to remove Lula from power. Bolsonaro currently faces investigations into whether he played a role in instigating the attack.
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