Brazil’s Bolsonaro denies illegal acts with seized jewelry

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BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro said Saturday that he’d done nothing illegal following reports that he tried to bring jewelry worth more than $3 million into the country in 2021 without declaring it to authorities.

The jewelry – a set of earrings, a necklace, a ring and a watch of the Swiss brand Chopard – had been given as a gift to Bolosonaro by the Saudi Arabian government when he was in office, according to a report Friday in the O Estado de São Paulo newspaper.

The set was found in luggage belonging to an adviser to Bolsonaro’s mines and energy minister in São Paulo’s international airport, according to the newspaper. The minister had visited Saudi Arabia after attending a 2021 Middle East summit.

Under Brazilian law, goods that are bought from abroad worth more than $1,000 must be declared for taxation. According to a document obtained by the newspaper and later released by Bolsonaro’s former communications chief of staff, the jewelry was not declared.

The ex-communications chief, Fabio Wajngarten, wrote on his social media account that the box was sealed and was only opened in Brazil by the customs authorities. He said that because it was a presidential gift, neither he nor members from the delegation tied to open it.

Investigators will now see if Bolsonaro was trying to get the jewelry secretly into Brazil in order to avoid taxes or to prevent it going into the presidency’s public collection. If it was put in the public collection, he wouldn’t have been able to take it with him when he left office.

On Saturday, Bolsonaro said there was never any illegal activity by him, and that he’s being accused of a gift which he never asked for and never received, according to a statement given to CNN Brazil.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino wrote on his social media account that on Monday he’ll send a letter asking federal police to open an investigations for possible money laundering or misappropriation.

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