The government of the now former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tried to illegally introduce jewels valued at 3.2 million dollars that Saudi Arabia had given to the then first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, in October 2021, reported this Friday the newspaper ‘O Estado de Sao Paulo’.
According to the newspaper, the Saudi authorities gave the Bolsonaros "a necklace, a ring, a watch and a pair of diamond earrings"but since they were not declared at customs at the Guarulhos international airport in Sao Paulo, the Treasury seized them.
The agents found the exclusive gifts in the backpack of a soldier, advisor to the then Minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, who was part of the Brazilian entourage that traveled to the Middle East at the time.
According to ‘O Estado de Sao Paulo’, upon learning that they had been confiscated, Albuquerque tried to assert his position as minister to release the set of Chopard brand jewels, but the Treasury maintained its decision, since in Brazil it is mandatory to declare any good that it enters the country and exceeds 1,000 dollars.
The newspaper noted that "in the last two months" of Bolsonaro’s term (2019-2022), which ended on January 1, "there were four unsuccessful attempts" of the far-right leader to recover the jewels, mobilizing even the Ministries of Economy and Foreign Relations.
The last attempt took place on December 29, three days before Bolsonaro left power and was succeeded by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when "a government official" traveled on a Brazilian Air Force (FAB) plane to Guarulhos customs and said that "I was there to pick up the jewelry".
He did not achieve his goal. ‘O Estado de Sao Paulo’ also reports that Bolsonaro himself sent a letter to the office of the Federal Treasury "to request that the goods be sent to the Presidency of the Republic".
According to the newspaper, the Government could have received the jewels if they had been declared as a "Official gift to the President of the Republic and the First Lady"although in that case they would have remained the property of the Brazilian State and not of the Bolsonaros.
When passing as personal belongings, the only way to recover them is by paying the import tax, which reaches 50% of the confiscated good, and a fine of more than 25% for trying to introduce them irregularly.
Albuquerque confirmed to ‘O Estado de Sao Paulo’ that the gifts were from the Government of Saudi Arabia for Michelle Bolsonaro, but that at that time she was unaware that they were such valuable jewels.
The news has had repercussions in other Brazilian media outlets and has provoked a reaction from the current minister of the Presidency’s Communication Secretariat, Paulo Pimenta, who raised suspicions of corruption regarding the previous administration.
"Bolsonaro tried to illegally bring a diamond necklace and earrings worth 16.5 million reais ($3.2 million) for Michelle (Bolsonaro). The gifts were delivered in Saudi Arabia at the end of 2021"when the state oil company "Petrobras had just sold a refinery for $1.8 billion to a Saudi Arabian group"denounced.
For Pepper, "all" those involved "deserve to be investigated and punished for the crimes committed".