A Bolsonaro minister tried to illegally smuggle valuable jewelery into Brazil as a gift from Saudi Arabia | International

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Jair Bolsonaro, former president of Brazil, during the Turning Point USA event on Friday, February 3, 2023 in Florida (USA).Eva Marie Uzcategui (Bloomberg)

On December 29, three days before his presidential term ended, the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, made a final request to the customs service to recover some valuable jewels that one of his ministers brought as a gift from the Saudi authorities to the first lady after an official trip to the Arab country in October 2021. The gift consisted of a diamond necklace, earrings and a watch, valued at three million euros, they were seized at the São Paulo international airport because the minister tried to introduce them into Brazil without declaring or paying the corresponding taxes, as revealed exclusively by the newspaper stadium.

The former president, who has been in the United States for more than two months, has not said anything on the subject for now. This weekend he plans to participate in the great convention of American conservatives with Donald Trump. Instead, the former first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, responded to the information immediately: “Do you mean that I have all that and I didn't even know? My God! I am laughing at the lack of professionalism of this vexatious press, ”she said on Instagram.

The jewels, which are from Chopard and were accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, arrived in Brazil on a regular flight from the Middle East in the backpack of a soldier from the entourage of the Minister of Energy, Bento Albuquerque, who had just participated in a meeting on the environment in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). The assistant was in the queue of those who leave with nothing to declare when, according to the newspaper account, he was stopped for an inspection of his luggage. Once the jewels were discovered, the uniformed man called his boss, Minister and General Albuquerque.

The cameras at the Guarulhos airport, in São Paulo, recorded how the minister explained that the case contained a gift from the Saudi Arabian authorities for the wife of President Bolsonaro. He said he did not know what exactly the luxurious case contained. The problem, the customs official explained, is that any good that exceeds a thousand dollars must be declared at customs. The import tax is 50% of the value of the object and in this case a 25% fine would be added. A fortune given the value of the Saudi gift.

If Bolsonaro had considered the diamond necklace a state gift, it could have entered the country without problem, but it would have remained public property. All of his efforts indicate that he considered the jewelry a personal gift. The then president was not on that trip to Riyadh, but in those days he visited the Saudi ambassador in Brasilia with one of his sons for a commitment that was not on his agenda.

Bolsonaro wanted to have the jewels in his possession when Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office on January 1. For this reason, at the end of the year, he sent an emissary in an Air Force plane to the São Paulo airport. According to stadium, the envoy urged the customs official to hand them over because his boss's mandate was coming to an end: "There can be nothing from the old (Government) for the next one, you have to take everything out and take it away." The day after that attempt, Bolsonaro put land in the middle. He flew to Florida to avoid participating in the official handover ceremony.

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During the previous year, it had also moved land, sea and air without success. He made three efforts in which he mobilized members of his cabinet, three ministries (the Economy, Mines and Energy, and Foreign Affairs), as well as the military. All unsuccessful. The diamond jewelry was about to go up for auction. Now they are guarded as evidence of an alleged crime.

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