Alleged Bolsonaro-linked crime ring sold official luxury gifts worth $1.2m, Brazil police claim

<span>Former president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro attends a political conference at the weekend. He has been accused by police of links to a gang selling luxury gifts presented to his office by foreign leaders.</span><span>Photograph: André Borges/EPA</span>
Former president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro attends a political conference at the weekend. He has been accused by police of links to a gang selling luxury gifts presented to his office by foreign leaders.Photograph: André Borges/EPA

Federal police investigators have claimed that a criminal group, allegedly involving Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, tried to illegally siphon off and sell luxury gifts from foreign leaders worth at least $1.2m.

The new claims came on Monday, three days after police formally accused the far-right politician of embezzlement, money laundering and criminal association and suggested he face criminal charges. If Bolsonaro is charged and convicted, those alleged crimes could reportedly land him in jail for a total of 25 years.

The Brazilian media has dubbed the scandal “O Caso das Joias”, which roughly translates as Jewellery-gate.

Related: Ex-president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro could face money-laundering charges

On Monday, the supreme court judge Alexandre de Moraes authorised the publication of the 476-page federal police investigation into the alleged criminal group, the existence of which came to light in the months after Bolsonaro left power following his 2022 election defeat to the leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The report, seen by the Guardian, claims investigators found evidence of “a criminal association geared towards the embezzlement of high-value gifts received as a result of the ex-president Jair Bolsonaro’s office and/or by Brazilian government delegations that were acting in his name, during international trips … which could later be sold overseas”.

Investigators also claim “the sums obtained through these sales were converted into cash and incorporated into the ex-president’s personal patrimony, through intermediaries and without using the formal banking system, in order to hide the origin, whereabouts and ownership of those sums”.

The sums involved in the alleged racket are substantial and potentially politically damaging for the army captain-turned-president who has – despite longstanding suspicions and allegations of corruption – spent years promoting himself as an incorruptible and upstanding citizen. The police report is peppered with photographs of extravagant gifts from foreign governments that were allegedly misappropriated including a Chopard rollerball pen worth $20,000, a pair of ear-rings worth more than $126,000 and a special edition Rolex watch valued at nearly $74,000.

Investigators claimed it was possible that the fruits of the alleged criminal scheme were used to bankroll Bolsonaro’s activities in the US after he flew there in the final hours of his four-year presidency, on 30 December 2022.

The Donald Trump-admiring South American populist has yet to comment on the latest allegations against him but has previously denied wrongdoing during his time as president.

Speaking at a rightwing conference in south Brazil this weekend, Bolsonaro claimed he was happy to subject himself to a live, two-hour grilling by the press “about anything”. But he has yet to fully address the allegations, or other claims against him, including suspicions that he helped incite the January 2023 rebellion in Brasília. Argentina’s rightwing leader, Javier Milei, who also spoke at the conservative conference, claimed his Brazilian “friend” was the victim of “judicial persecution”.

Brazilian investigators allegedly believe they have uncovered strong evidence that Bolsonaro was aware of, and benefited from, Jewellery-gate.