Former Brazilian President Bolsonaro Questioned About Gifts of Diamond Jewelry

Former Brazilian President Bolsonaro Questioned About Gifts of Diamond Jewelry
Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro greets supporters outside the Liberal Party's headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 30, 2023. (Gustavo Moreno/AP Photo)

BRASILIA, Brazil—Former President Jair Bolsonaro underwent questioning Wednesday about diamond jewelry gifts when he was in power, as part of an investigation into whether he engaged in any irregularities in bringing the items into Brazil.

Federal police and prosecutors are investigating whether three sets of jewelry brought into the country from Saudi Arabia were public gifts that Bolsonaro improperly tried to prevent from being incorporated into the presidency’s public collection or were private gifts that Bolsonaro tried sneak into Brazil without paying taxes.

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 percent of their value. The three sets of jewelry would have been exempt from tax had they been a gift from the state of Saudi Arabia to the nation of Brazil, but would not have been Bolsonaro’s to keep.

After Bolsonaro left the Federal Police headquarters in Brazil’s capital Wednesday, it wasn’t know if he answered investigator’s questions or exercised his right to stay silent. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing connected to the gifts, and said he never attempted to hide anything.

A customs agent seized one of the sets, manufactured by Swiss brand Chopard and reportedly worth some $3 million, at Sao Paulo’s international airport in October 2021 when an adviser to the then minister for mines and energy brought it into the country.

Brazil jewelry
Jewelry seized by customs authorities at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo on the week of March 24, 2023. (Brazil’s Federal Revenue Department via AP)

Documents and video footage published by Brazilian news outlets appear to show supposed emissaries of Bolsonaro making multiple unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the seized jewelry, up until just days before the end of his presidency.

A government watchdog ordered Bolsonaro to return the remaining jewelry to the state-owned Caixa Economica Federal bank. He returned one set on March 24. The other was delivered on Tuesday, Bolsonaro’s former communications chief, Fábio Wajngarten, wrote on Twitter.

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