Former President Bolsonaro accused of money laundering and criminal association – Telemundo San Antonio (60)

Former President Bolsonaro accused of money laundering and criminal association – Telemundo San Antonio (60)
Former President Bolsonaro accused of money laundering and criminal association – Telemundo San Antonio (60)

SAO PAUL, Brazil — Brazil’s federal police have charged former President Jair Bolsonaro with money laundering and criminal association in connection with undeclared diamonds he received from Saudi Arabia during his tenure, according to a source familiar with the allegations.

A second source confirmed the charges, though not for specific crimes. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Brazil’s Supreme Court has not yet received the police report with the accusation. Once it has it, the country’s attorney general, Paulo Gonet, will analyze the document and decide whether to press charges and take Bolsonaro to trial.

This is the second formal accusation against Bolsonaro since he left office, after another in May for allegedly falsifying his COVID-19 vaccination certificate. But this accusation drastically increases the legal threats facing the former president, which are applauded by his opponents but criticized by his supporters, who consider them political persecution.

Bolsonaro has not commented so far, but he and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing in connection with either case, as well as other investigations he faces. One of them probes his possible involvement in inciting an uprising in the capital Brasilia on January 8, 2023, that sought to oust his successor.

Last year, federal police accused Bolsonaro of trying to smuggle diamond jewelry worth $3 million and selling two luxury watches.

Police said in August that Bolsonaro received nearly $70,000 in cash from the sale of two luxury watches he received as gifts from Saudi Arabia.

Brazil requires its citizens arriving by air from abroad to declare goods worth more than $1,000 and, for any amount above that exemption, pay a tax equivalent to 50% of its value.

The former Brazilian president was banned from exercising his political rights for eight years following his campaign against the 2022 elections.

The jewels would have been exempt from tax if they had been a gift from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, but they were not meant for Bolsonaro to keep. Rather, they would have been added to the presidential collection.

The investigation showed that Mauro Cid, a former Bolsonaro aide who allegedly falsified the president’s COVID-19 vaccination records, sold a Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch to a U.S. store in June 2022 for a total of $68,000.

Both watches were gifts from the Saudi Arabian government in 2019. Cid later signed a plea agreement with authorities and confirmed all of this.

Flávio Bolsonaro, the former president’s eldest son and a sitting senator, said on social media X after Thursday’s indictment that the persecution against his father was “flagrant and shameless.”

In addition to Bolsonaro, police have indicted 10 other people, including Cid and two of his lawyers, Frederick Wassef and Fábio Wajngarten, according to one of the sources. Wassef said in a statement that he did not have access to the investigation’s final report, and criticized selective leaks to the press of an investigation that is allegedly being conducted under seal.

“I am going through all this just to practice law in defense of Jair Bolsonaro,” he wrote.

In X, Wajngarten said that the police have not found evidence implicating him. “The Federal Police know that 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 said.

Bolsonaro enjoys unconditional loyalty among his political base, as evidenced by an avalanche of support in February, when an estimated 185,000 people clogged Sao Paulo’s main avenue to protest what the former president said was political persecution.

His detractors, particularly members of the Workers’ Party to which his rival, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, belongs, have welcomed each advance in the investigation and have repeatedly called for his arrest.

Psychologist Deborah Santos watched news of Bolsonaro’s indictment at a bakery in Sao Paulo’s upmarket Vila Madalena neighborhood.

“This is great because it breaks a pattern. Bolsonaro supporters love to say how honest he is; everyone is dishonest except them,” said Santos, 52. “There you have it: the police think he steals diamonds. That should be the end of any politician’s career.”

Last year, Brazil’s top electoral court ruled that Bolsonaro abused his presidential powers during his 2022 re-election campaign, disqualifying him from running for office until 2030.

The case centered on a meeting in which Bolsonaro used government staff, state television and the presidential palace in Brasilia to tell foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system was rigged.

Bolsonaro is scheduled to meet with Argentine President Javier Milei this weekend at a conservative conference in Balneário Camboriú, in southern Brazil.

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