Wed, Mar 22, 2023 6:06 PM
By MAURICIO SAVARESE, Associated Press
SAO PAULO (AP) — A Brazilian government watchdog voted Wednesday to give former President Jair Bolsonaro five working days to return to authorities a set of jewels he received from Saudi Arabia in 2021.
All nine members of the government watchdog voted in favor of requiring Bolsonaro to turn the jewels over to the state-owned Caixa Economica Federal bank in the capital city of Brasilia.
The five days start counting as soon as Bolsonaro's lawyers are officially notified, which had not happened, according to the government watchdog.
Another set of jewels from Saudi Arabia estimated to be worth several million dollars and also sent to Bolsonaro, according to one of his former ministers, was seized by customs at Sao Paulo's international airport.
Bolsonaro, who has been in the United States since he left office in January, is under preliminary police investigations at home since Brazilian media started reporting on the jewels earlier this month.
The Federal Court of Accounts, a legislative branch watchdog that oversees actions of Brazil's executive, also ruled that Bolsonaro must give some weapons he received from the United Arab Emirates to the presidential collection.
Bolsonaro did not declare either set of jewels to tax authorities. Legal experts say he could face prosecution in the case.
It is unclear whether the diamonds were a gift from Saudi authorities or not.
Bolsonaro's lawyer, Frederick Wassef, said in a statement on March 7 that the former president received the goods in a “very personal” manner and denied there was any wrongdoing.
The government watchdog rejected that argument in its decision Wednesday. It said the jewels had to be returned due to the “high value of the goods, which should not be incorporated to a private collection.”
The watchdog decided earlier this month that it will look into every gift received by former Brazilian presidents at the end of their terms. It will also audit the collection received by Bolsonaro since he took office in 2019.