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Former President Jair Bolsonaro indicted by Brazilian Police in undeclared Saudi diamonds case, say sources

Since Bolsonaro lost the presidential election by a slim margin to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2022, he has been repeatedly investigated and interrogated by police

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in June 2024
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in June 2024 | EFE

July 5, 2024 7:02am

Updated: July 5, 2024 8:36am

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was indicted by Federal Police for money laundering and criminal association on Thursday in connection with reports of undeclared diamonds from Saudi Arabia, according to a July 4 news report published by The Associated Press.

The Associated Press cited two anonymous sources who spoke to the international wire service. One source purportedly had knowledge of the accusations, and a second confirmed the existence of the indictment.

According to Brazilian criminal procedure, Federal Police will have to turn the indictment over to Brazil’s Supreme Court, and then the country’s prosecutor-general, Paulo Gonet Branco, will review the accusations and exercise prosecutorial discretion over whether to file charges and compel Bolsonaro to face them at trial.

This is the second indictment the new Brazilian government will have filed against the former general and president since his former rival and longtime nemesis, leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took power after a razor sharp general election contest in October 2022.

The two men have a long, competitive history that escalated after police imprisoned Lula da Silva in 2017 for 580 days after he was prosecuted on charges of money laundering as part of the infamous Operation Car Wash scandal, and subsequently disqualified from running against Bolsonaro in the 2018 general election contest, which the former general won handedly.

Lula’s conviction was nullified in 2021 by the Brazilian Supreme Court based on jurisdictional grounds, but not the substance of the allegations.

Frustrated that he was the original front runner in the 2018 election before his charges, Lula returned to challenge Bolsonaro in 2022, an election which some say was one of the closest in Brazil’s presidential history.

Shortly after Lula took power on Jan. 1, 2023, Bolsonaro left the country for a short visit to the United States, but then returned, vowing to his countrymen and the Liberal Party which he led that he was not concerned about retaliation and was determined to continue speaking out for conservative values.

Since his return however, he has been repeatedly investigated and interrogated by Brazilian police.

Last year, Brazilian police accused the former South American president of trying to smuggle in $3 million worth of diamond jewelry and using a former aide to illegally sell two luxury watches in 2019 for nearly $68,000, both of which were reportedly gifts from Saudi Arabia.

Under Brazilian law, any president is obligated to turn gifts of such high financial value over to the country’s presidential collection instead of keeping or selling them for personal profit.

In May Bolsonaro was charged with allegedly falsifying his COVID-19 vaccination certificate, questioned by São Paolo police for purportedly harassing a humpback whale while jet skiing, and faced international speculation about a possible role in the Jan. 8, 2023 Brasilia riots that sought to remove Lula from power.

On Feb. 8, ADN reported that the former president was even forced to surrender his Brazilian passport amid allegations of election interference.

The government has also used its power to ban Bolsonaro from running for president again until 2030.

Last year, Brazil’s top electoral court issued a ruling that held the ex-president abused his executive powers during the 2022 election, making him ineligible to run for eight more years.

In that case, government officials alleged that the former president unlawfully used government resources and media to promote disinformation about the national election system being manipulated.

The former president has endured all this while also facing government leaks about being prosecuted in the instant case about Saudi diamonds.

While the past incidents made news, they did not raise concerns among Bolsonaro’s allies and supporters until now. According to the AP, “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”

While the former general turned president has not yet made an announcement or responded publicly to the charges, his attorneys have repeatedly denied the allegations when rumors have surfaced about the government filing charges.

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.

So far, the government’s key evidence seems to rely on information they obtained from a cooperating former Bolsonaro aide, Mauro Cid, who allegedly sold the Rolexes in the U.S. for his boss and falsified his COVID-19 records.

But the former president’s eldest son, Flávio Bolsonaro—now a sitting senator—wrote on X after Thursday's indictment that government’s continued leaks and investigations amounted to a form of persecution.

“The persecution of Bolsonaro is declared and shameless! Once there is a present, a commission of public servants decides that it is yours. The TCU questions and the present is returned to the União. No damage to the waste! This group of PFs, scaled by finger for missão, indicates people,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, the former ex-general and head of state is not the only one facing prosecution as part of these investigations.

Brazil’s Federal Police also indicted 10 others, including Cid and two of his attorneys, Fábio Wajngarten and Frederick Wassef, according to one of the sources.

Wassef complained in a statement that the government’s leaks of an ongoing investigation were supposed be under seal.

“I am going through all of this solely for practicing law in defense of Jair Bolsonaro,” he wrote.

Wajngarten likewise wrote on X that the investigation was meritless.

“The Federal Police knows I did nothing related to what they are investigating, but they still want to punish me because I provide unwavering and permanent defense for former President Bolsonaro,” he wrote.

Still, Bolsonaro has continued to receive significant support from his conservative base.

In February, ADN reported that the former president made worldwide news when he emerged on a balcony to speak in São Paulo and 185,000 people came to show their opposition to the government’s actions against him.

But while Bolsonaro’s allies have continued to applaud him and show unwavering support, his opponents have also remained steadfast in their criticism, calling upon newly elected Lula to push for his predecessor’s arrest.

That hasn’t stopped Bolsonaro from continuing to build political alliances however.

The former president  is expected to meet fellow conservative and newly elected Argentinian President Javier Milei in southern Brazil this weekend, according to the report published by the AP.

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.