Brazil’s Bolsonaro Testifies in Scandal Over Saudi Jewelry Gift

A customs employee opens the box containing the jewelry with diamonds gifted to Bolsonaro and former first lady Michelle Bolsonaro by the Saudi government which was seized by customs officials, at Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport, in Guarulhos, Brazil, March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
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BRASILIA, April 5 (Reuters) – Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro appeared at the federal police headquarters on Wednesday to testify in an investigation into jewelry and gifts given in 2021 to the then-president and his wife by the king of Saudi Arabia.

Police closed the street outside the building.

One of the jewelry sets given to then First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro and valued at 16.5 million reais ($3.26 million) was seized by customs officials in the backpack of a government aide returning from Saudi Arabia.

Bolsonaro returned two other gift packages after Brazil’s federal audit court ordered him to do so.

The former president has said he did nothing wrong in receiving the gifts, but the jewelry incident tarnished his reputation as an anti-corruption leader. His critics said the gifts belonged to the presidential collection and accused him of trying to evade customs duties by having them smuggled into Brazil.

Several officials from the Bolsonaro administration unsuccessfully tried to recover the main jewelry present from customs at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport, according to local media.

In a statement on Tuesday, Bolsonaro’s defense said that handing over the gifts showed his commitment to obey the audit courts decisions and willingness to respect the law.

Another gift, received from the United Arab Emirates — a rifle and a pistol — was handed over to the federal police.

Bolsonaro returned to Brazil last week after nearly three months in the United States of self-imposed exile following defeat in his bid for re-election last year.

($1 = 5.0566 reais)

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Editing by Aurora Ellis
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