Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to the press outside his home after Federal Police agents carried out a search and seizure warrant in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, May 3, 2023. When asked about the search of Bolsonaro’s home in Brasilia, the Federal Police press office gave a statement saying officers were carrying out searches and arrests related to the introduction of fraudulent data related to the COVID-19 vaccine into the nation’s health system. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
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SAO PAULO — Brazil’s Federal Police have indicted former President Jair Bolsonaro for money laundering and criminal association in connection with undeclared diamonds the far-right leader received from Saudi Arabia during his time in office, according to a source with knowledge of the accusations.

A second source confirmed the indictment, although not for which specific crimes. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Brazil’s Supreme Court has yet to receive the police report with the indictment. Once it does, the country’s prosecutor-general, Paulo Gonet, will analyze the document and decide whether to file charges and force Bolsonaro to stand trial.

The indictment dramatically raises the stakes in a series of investigations into the divisive ex-leader applauded by his opponents but denounced as political persecution by his supporters.

Bolsonaro and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing related to the case, as well as the slew of investigations facing the former president. Those include allegedly ordering an aide to manipulate public health records to falsify his COVID-19 vaccination certificate, for which he was already indicted, as well as involvement in inciting an uprising in capital Brasilia on Jan. 8, 2023 that sought to oust his successor from power.

Last year, Federal Police accused Bolsonaro of attempting to sneak in diamond jewelry reportedly worth $3 million and selling two luxury watches.

Police said in August that Bolsonaro received cash from the nearly $70,000 sale of two luxury watches he received as gifts from Saudi Arabia. Brazil requires its citizens arriving by plane from abroad to declare goods worth more than $1,000 and, for any amount above that exemption, pay a tax equal to 50% of their value.

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The jewelry would have been exempt from tax had it been a gift from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, but not Bolsonaro’s to keep for himself. Rather, it would have been added to the presidential collection.

The investigation showed that one of Bolsonaro’s top aides, Mauro Cid, in June 2022 sold a Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch to a store in the U.S for a total $68,000. They were gifted by Saudi Arabia’s government in 2019. Cid later signed a plea bargain with authorities and confirmed it all.

Bolsonaro retains staunch allegiance among his political base, as shown by an outpouring of support in February, when an estimated 185,000 people clogged Sao Paulo’s main boulevard to protest what the former president calls political persecution.

His critics, particularly members of his rival President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s political party, have cheered every advance of investigations and repeatedly called for his arrest.

Last year, Brazil’s top electoral court ruled that Bolsonaro abused his presidential powers during his 2022 reelection bid, which rendered him ineligible for any elections until 2030. The case focused on a meeting during which Bolsonaro used government staffers, the state television channel and the presidential palace in Brasilia to tell foreign ambassadors that the country’s electronic voting system was rigged.

Bolsonaro is expected to meet Argentinian President Javier Milei this weekend at a conservative conference in Balneario Camboriu, in Brazil’s south.

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