05 July 2024

Former Brazilian president Bolsonaro indicted for money laundering, sources say

05 July 2024

Brazil’s federal police have indicted former President Jair Bolsonaro for money laundering and criminal association, sources say.

The charges are in connection with undeclared diamonds the far-right leader received from Saudi Arabia during his time in office, according to a source with knowledge of the accusations.

A second source confirmed the indictment, although not for which specific crimes.

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 analyse the document and decide whether to file charges and force Mr Bolsonaro to stand trial.

The indictment dramatically raises the stakes in a series of investigations into the divisive former leader applauded by his opponents but denounced as political persecution by his supporters.

Mr Bolsonaro and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing related to the case, as well as the slew of investigations facing the former president.

Those include allegedly ordering an aide to manipulate public health records to falsify his Covid-19 vaccination certificate, for which he was already indicted, as well as involvement in inciting an uprising in the capital Brasilia on January 8 2023, which sought to oust his successor from power.

Last year, Federal Police accused Mr Bolsonaro of attempting to sneak in diamond jewellery reportedly worth 3 million dollars (£2.3 million) and selling two luxury watches.

Police said in August that Mr Bolsonaro received nearly 70,000 dollars (£54,000) from the 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 dollars and, for any amount above that exemption, pay a tax equal to 50% of their value.

The jewellery would have been exempt from tax had it been a gift from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, but not Mr Bolsonaro’s to keep for himself. Rather, it would have been added to the presidential collection.

The investigation showed that one of Mr Bolsonaro’s top aides, Mauro Cid, sold a Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch to a store in the US in June 2022 for a total of 68,000 dollars (£53,000)

They were gifted by Saudi Arabia’s government in 2019.

Cid later signed a plea bargain with authorities and confirmed it all.

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

Police indicted 10 others, including Cid and two of Mr Bolsonaro’s lawyers, Frederick Wassef and Fábio Wajngarten, according to one of the sources.

Wassef said in a statement that he did not have access to the final report of the investigation, and decried selective leaks to the press of an investigation that is supposed to be proceeding under seal.

Mr Bolsonaro retains staunch allegiance among his political base, as shown by an outpouring of support in February when an estimated 185,000 people clogged Sao Paulo’s main boulevard to protest what the former president calls political persecution.

His critics, particularly members of his rival President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s political party, have cheered every advance of investigations and repeatedly called for his arrest.

Last year, Brazil’s top electoral court ruled that Mr 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 Mr Bolsonaro used government staffers, the state television channel and the presidential palace in Brasilia to tell foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system was rigged.

Former President Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly been incited for money laundering and criminal association, sources say. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) (AP)

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