Ex-president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro could face money-laundering charges

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Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro faces possible charges for money laundering, embezzlement and criminal association in connection with undeclared diamonds the far-right leader received from Saudi Arabia during his time in office, local media has reported.

Brazil’s supreme court has yet to receive the police report with the indictment. Once it does, the country’s prosecutor-general, Paulo Gonet, will analyze the document and decide whether to file charges and force Bolsonaro to stand trial.

This is Bolsonaro’s second indictment since leaving office, following another in May for allegedly falsifying his Covid vaccination certificate. But this 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 any wrongdoing in both those cases, as well as other investigations into the former president. One is probing his possible involvement in inciting an uprising in the capital, Brasília, on 8 January 2023 that sought to oust his successor from power.

Last year, federal police accused Bolsonaro of attempting to sneak in diamond jewelry reportedly worth $3m 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, for any amount above that exemption, pay a tax equal to 50% of their value.

The jewelry would have been exempt from tax had it been a gift from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, but not to Bolsonaro to keep for himself. Rather, 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 records, in June 2022 sold a Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch to a store in the US 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 the allegations.

Flávio Bolsonaro, the former president’s eldest son and a sitting senator, said on X after Thursday’s indictment that the prosecution of his father was “blatant and shameless”.

In addition to Bolsonaro, police indicted 10 others, according to reports.

The 69-year-old former army captain started his political career as a staunch advocate of Brazil’s military dictatorship, and was a lawmaker for nearly three decades. When he ran for the presidency for the first time, in 2018, he was widely dismissed as an outsider and too radically conservative. But he surprised analysts with a decisive victory, in no small part due to his self-portrayal as an upstanding citizen in the years following a sprawling corruption probe that ensnared hundreds of politicians and executives.

Last year, Brazil’s top electoral court ruled that Bolsonaro abused his presidential powers during his 2022 re-election bid, which rendered him ineligible for any elections until 2030. The case focused on a meeting during which Bolsonaro used government staffers, the state television channel and the presidential palace in Brasília to tell foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system was rigged.

Bolsonaro is expected to meet the Argentinian president, Javier Milei, this weekend at a conservative conference in Balneario Camboriu, in Brazil’s south.

Source: theguardian.com

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