Bolsonaro denies 'illegal acts' over Saudi jewels; Lula government vows probe

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks at a Turning Point USA event in Doral
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during "Power of The People" event hosted by Turning Point USA at Trump National Doral Miami Resort in Doral, Florida, U.S., February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Marco Bello

SAO PAULO, March 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro on Saturday denied committing "illegal acts" after a report that jewelry allegedly gifted by Saudi Arabia to him and his wife was brought into the South American nation without being declared to authorities.

The government of Bolsonaro's successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, pledged to investigate the matter.

On Friday, O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported that a member of Bolsonaro's government had illegally tried to bring to Brazil a $3.2 million jewelry set consisting of a diamond necklace, ring, watch and earrings gifted to the far-right former president and former first lady Michelle Bolsonaro by the Saudi government.

The Saudi embassy in Brazil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I'm being accused of a gift I neither asked for nor received," Bolsonaro was quoted as saying in an interview with CNN Brasil. "There is no illegality on my part. I never committed illegal acts."

Still, Lula aides promised that probe into the matter would be launched.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said he would request a federal police investigation, while Paulo Pimenta, a spokesman for the leftist Brazilian president, stressed there would be no impunity.

"The evidence is robust and the truth will out," Pimenta said in a social media broadcast.

According to O Estado de S. Paulo, the jewels valued at 3 million euros ($3.19 million) were found by customs agents in the backpack of an aide to then-Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque who was returning from an official trip to the Middle East in October 2021.

Agents at the Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo seized the jewelry, as people must declare any goods worth more than $1,000 when they enter Brazil, the newspaper said, adding that the Bolsonaro administration unsuccessfully tried to recover the jewelry multiple times through government officials.

Bolsonaro is in the United States, having flown to Florida in late December, 48 hours before Lula was sworn in. He attended the CPAC conservative conference in Washington on Saturday where he was also expected to meet former U.S. President Donald Trump, his political ally.

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Reporting by Paula Arend Laier and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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