Jair Bolsonaro
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro prepares to speak to reporters on June 30, 2023 in Belo Horizonte.
(Photo: Douglas Mago/AFP via Getty Images)

'Jewel Thief' Bolsonaro Among 12 Indicted for Alleged Embezzlement in Brazil

The former right-wing president and others including his personal aide allegedly sold state property including jewelry and other gifts worth more than $1 million in the United States.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's legal woes increased dramatically Thursday as he and 11 others were indicted for embezzlement and other crimes in connection with the alleged misappropriation of diamond jewelry and other state property received as gifts from the Saudi and Bahraini monarchies during the right-wing leader's presidential tenure.

Carta Capital reported that Brazil's Federal Police indicted Bolsonaro with embezzlement, money laundering, and criminal association. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 25 years in prison. Bolsonaro maintains his innocence.

Eleven other people were also indicted in the case, including former Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque and former Bolsonaro personal aide Lt. Col. Mauro Cid. The office of Brazilian Attorney General Jorge Messias must now decide whether to proceed with a federal case against the indicted individuals.

According to authorities, Bolsonaro failed to properly register high-value gifts from the Saudi and Bahraini governments near the end of his presidential term. Those items were later sold in the United States by the president's associates.

While visiting Saudi Arabia in October 2019, the Saudi monarchy gifted Bolsonaro a white gold kit containing a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch. This and another luxury Swiss watch—a Patek Philippe—were later allegedly sold in a mall in Pennsylvania.

a diamond-encrusted Rolex and other jewelry allegedly embezzled by Bolsonaro and others This diamond-encrusted Rolex watch (left) is part of the white gold kit (right) that was allegedly sold by Bolsonaro associates in the United States. (Photo: Brazilian Federal Police)

On an October 2021 trip to Saudi Arabia, Albuquerque received a gold rosé kit with a watch, cuff links, pen, ring, and an Islamic rosary made by Chopard and failed to properly report the gift upon returning to Brazil. Investigators say the kit was then taken aboard an official flight on which Bolsonaro was a passenger and subsequently sold at a New York auction.

Proceeds from the sale of the undeclared goods—which investigators say totaled more than $1 million—were pocketed by the indicted individuals.

Army Gen. Mauro Lourena Cid—the father of Lt. Col. Mauro Cid, Bolsonaro's personal aide—allegedly kept some jewelry and sculptures received by Bolsonaro at the end of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce Business Seminar in Manama, Bahrain in November 2021.

This photo shows some of the diamond jewelry cited in the Brazilian Federal Police indictment of former President Jair Bolsonaro and 11 others.(Photo: Brazilian Federal Police)

Police recommended criminally charging the younger Cid, who signed a plea deal. Cid's lawyer claimed his client was following orders from Bolsonaro—an allegation the ex-president denies.

O Globoreported Bolsonaro allegedly stored 175 boxes containing numerous gifts at a property owned by former Formula One racer Nelson Piquet. While some of the gifts were determined to be the president's rightful property, other items given to Bolsonaro while he served in his official presidential capacity are legally owned by the state.

This is the second set of federal criminal charges for Bolsonaro, who in March was federally charged with allegedly falsifying his Covid-19 vaccination data and criminal association in a case that could result in a prison sentence of 12-16-years if he is fully convicted.

Bolsonaro—who denies any wrongdoing—is also banned from seeking any political office for eight years due to his alleged abuse of power related to baseless claims of fraud in the 2022 presidential election.

A 2023 Brazilian congressional inquiry also found that Bolsonaro was the "intellectual and moral author of a coup movement" that culminated in the January 8, 2023 attacks on government buildings, and he and scores of his supporters should be criminally indicted for their "willful coup attempt."

Bolsonaro's autocratic actions have been compared to those of former U.S. President Donald Trump, long ago earning him the nickname "Trump of the Tropics." Bolsonaro sought refuge in the United States following the January 2023 attacks and the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who defeated him in the runoff round of the 2022 presidential election.

"Bolsonaro the Jewel Thief" trended on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, following Thursday's indictments.

"Today is a great day for people who believe in justice," said one Socialism and Liberty city councilwoman in Belo Horizonte.

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