July 25, 2024

Saudi Diamonds Scandal involving Bolsonaro: What We Know

Jair Bolsonaro, a former president of Brazil, is under fire for allegedly attempting to illegally import jewels valued at millions of dollars that Saudi Arabia had gifted to him and his wife.

Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, is expected to return to Brazil soon from the United States, where he has been residing since just before his leftist successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, took office on January 1. However, the scandal has sparked multiple investigations, potentially complicating Bolsonaro’s life.

This is a summary of the case’s information.

From where did the gems originate?
Bento Albuquerque, Bolsonaro’s former minister of mines and energy, claims that a Saudi “envoy” sent his delegation two gifts at the conclusion of an official visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2021.

According to the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo, which first reported the incident, when the party returned to Brazil, customs officers discovered an assistant to Albuquerque carrying one of the boxes – unregistered — in his backpack.

The diamonds were seized by officials after they discovered that the required import duty had not been paid.

Up until the third-to-last day of his term, when it sent a navy officer to the Sao Paulo airport to exert pressure on officials to hand over the diamonds, the Bolsonaro government reportedly made at least eight attempts to persuade customs inspectors to release the jewels.

According to later reports, Bolsonaro received the second item, which had escaped scrutiny, and kept it for himself.

The former president vehemently denied any wrongdoing, telling CNN Brazil that he had committed “no illegality” at all.

The crates contained what?
The gifts were from the Swiss premium brand Chopard.

The first contained a necklace, ring, watch, and pair of earrings with an estimated worth of three million euros ($3.2 million), which Albuquerque was shown on camera telling customs officers it was for former first lady Michelle Bolsonaro.

The second contained a prayer bead set, men’s watch, ring, pair of cufflinks, pen, and other items valued at at least $75,000 in total.

What is being looked into?
Brazilian law mandates that anyone bringing into the nation goods worth more than $1,000 declare them.

In this situation, a severe fine for failing to declare the gems would have been added to the import duty of 50% on the excess value over $1,000 that the owner would have had to pay.

As presents to the country, the gems might have entered Brazil without paying taxes. But then, according to legal professionals, they would not have belonged to the first family but rather to the presidential palace collection.

President included, government officials are categorically prohibited from accepting expensive gifts for themselves, according to Isac Falcao, president of Sindifisco, the organization for those working for the tax authority.

Every public employee is aware of that, he told AFP.

Both the tax office and the federal police have launched investigations.

An investigation into whether the jewels were connected to the $1.65 billion sale of an oil refinery in northeastern Brazil to the sovereign investment fund of the United Arab Emirates, Mubadala, in March 2021 has also been announced by the chairman of the Senate transparency committee.

The diamonds are not present.
According to tax official Andre Martins, the initial collection of gems “is in a safe at Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo,” where customs officers took them.

According to the tax office, the window of opportunity to rectify their legal condition closed in July 2022. It stated that they might now be sold at auction, given away, included in the national collection, or destroyed.

On Monday, Brazilian media reported that Bolsonaro has consented to turn up the second set of jewels to law enforcement awaiting an inquiry.

What follows is what?
Bolsonaro and Albuquerque must now answer questions from police, according to a last-week ruling from Brazil’s Federal Court of Accounts (TCU), which monitors the government’s finances.

Albuquerque reportedly admitted to authorities on Tuesday that he did not know what was inside the packages but thought they were official gifts to the country.

Bolsonaro’s deposition has yet to be scheduled.

The incident has received minimal attention in Saudi Arabia, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not issued an official statement.

A potential roadblock to Bolsonaro’s ambitions to return from Florida and lead the opposition against Lula’s administration, however, has dominated headlines in Brazil.

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