Brazil's federal police have made startling allegations against former President Jair Bolsonaro, claiming that he received cash through the sale of luxury watches he had been gifted by Saudi Arabia while in office. This development has the potential to inflict further damage on the beleaguered far-right leader.
Earlier on the same day, law enforcement officers conducted raids on residences and workplaces associated with individuals supposedly connected to the case, including a high-ranking four-star army general. Bolsonaro has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing linked to these lavish gifts.
A confidential Federal Police source revealed that the agency is currently seeking permission to access Bolsonaro's personal financial records. Speaking anonymously to discuss the ongoing investigation, the source disclosed that the Federal Police have sought assistance from the FBI.
In response, Bolsonaro's legal team issued a statement affirming his willingness to grant Brazilian judicial authorities access to his banking history. "President Bolsonaro has never misappropriated or mishandled any public assets," the statement asserted.
This controversy adds yet another layer of legal jeopardy to Bolsonaro's post-presidential activities. He is already under investigation for his supporters' violent actions in the national capital after he left office, as well as actions taken during the unsuccessful presidential campaign he participated in last autumn.
Customs Regulations and Jewelry Gifts
Brazil's customs regulations mandate that individuals arriving by air from foreign countries must declare items exceeding a value of $1,000. Any goods surpassing this exemption threshold are subject to a tax equivalent to 50% of their assessed value.
If the jewelry Bolsonaro received were a gift from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, it would have been exempt from taxation. However, it would not have been his personal possession to retain. According to documents pertaining to the investigation, Lt.
Col. Mauro Cid, an aide to Bolsonaro, allegedly sold a Rolex and a Patek Philippe watch – gifts from Saudi Arabia in 2019 – to a U.S. store in June 2022 for a combined total of $68,000. The money purportedly made its way into Cid's father's bank account on the same day.
In March 2023, while investigations were underway, Bolsonaro was requested to return the jewelry sets. His attorney, Frederick Wassef, repurchased the Rolex watch in Miami and subsequently surrendered it to Brazilian authorities in April, according to official documents.
Wassef and Cid's father were among the primary targets of the search and seizure operations carried out on Friday. Also implicated was a close adviser responsible for handling the return of the jewelry sets. Earlier this year, Bolsonaro was barred from running for office until 2030 after a panel of judges determined he had abused his power and propagated unfounded doubts about the nation's electronic voting system.
Moreover, he faces trial in various other cases that could potentially lead to imprisonment. One such investigation revolves around Cid's arrest in May on charges of forging COVID-19 vaccine cards for his family and the Bolsonaro family during the pandemic.