Jair Bolsonaro
Ex-president Jair Bolsonaro denies his involvement in the ransacking of government buildings. Photo by: AFP/Mauro Pimentel

Embattled far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of selling two luxury watches he received as gifts from Saudi Arabia, while he was still the president of Brazil.

Bolsonaro denied any wrongdoing involving the gifts--which reportedly fetched him $68,000--after Brazil's federal police made the allegation Friday.

The police also raided the houses and offices of Mauro Cesar Cid, the father of Bolsonaro's former aide Lt Col Mauro Cid, and lawyer Frederick Wassef, who were allegedly involved in the sale, reported Reuters.

The authorities are currently trying to get authorization to access the personal banking and financial information of Bolsonaro, a federal police officer told AP News, on the condition of anonymity. The officer added the Federal Police had asked the FBI for help.

Following the allegations, Bolsonaro's legal team released a statement saying the former president "never embezzled or misplaced any public assets," and added he would authorize Brazil's judiciary to have access to his banking records.

Citizens of Brazil who arrive by plane from abroad need to declare goods worth more than $1,000. If people carry any amount above that exemption, they need to pay a tax equal to 50% of the value.

However, if the jewelry was a gift to Brazil from Saudi Arabia, then it would have been exempt from tax, which also meant Bolsonaro could not keep it.

As per an order issued by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, Federal Police contend, "The amounts obtained from these sales were transformed into cash and then became personal assets of the former president through middle people and without entering the formal banking system."

He said the Brazilian police believe the strategy of the suspects was "hiding the origin, location and ownership of these amounts."

The judge's order said as per the investigation, in June 2022, Lt. Col. Cid sold to a store in the U.S. a Rolex watch and a Patek Philippe watch for a total of $68,000, which were given as a gift by the government of Saudi Arabia in 2019. The money received from the sale was allegedly transferred to Cid's father's bank account the same day.

The order also said in March 2023, when investigations were underway and the Federal Police requested Bolsonaro to return two sets of jewelry gifts, his lawyer Wassef, repurchased the Rolex watch in Miami. Then he turned it over to Brazilian authorities in April.

This case adds to the legal woes that Bolsonaro is facing. In June, Brazil's Supreme Electoral Court barred him from running for office for eight years, according to the BBC. The decision was taken after he was found guilty of abusing his power ahead of the presidential poll in 2022.

He is also being investigated in connection to a rampage by his supporters in Brasilia after he left office.

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