Jair Bolsonaro’s Rolex Was Sold at a Pennsylvania Mall. Now Brazil’s Former President Is in Hot Water.

Donald Trump isn’t the only former president facing serious legal trouble.

Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-leader of Brazil, is also the target of several criminal investigations in his home country. And one of those, The New York Times reports, is related to a Rolex that one of his aides sold at a Philadelphia-area shopping mall.

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Brazilian federal police are looking into whether Bolsonaro and some of his allies have tried to embezzle gifts he received from foreign governments while in office. The investigation into the former president’s handling of foreign gifts stems from an incident in 2021 when a Brazilian official was caught carrying $3 million worth of undeclared jewels in their backpack following a state trip to Saudi Arabia. The official said the jewels were gifts to the then-president and his wife, Michelle, from the Saudi Arabian government, and Bolsonaro tried to recover them on multiple occasions. Federal police claim that their investigation has uncovered evidence of embezzlement and money laundering.

Former presidents Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump in 2019
Former presidents Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump in 2019

In one incident cited by the Times, Bolsonaro’s personal aide, Lt. Col. Mauro Cid, allegedly made an attempt to sell an 18-karat gold jewelry set from Chopard valued at $140,000. In another, Cid purportedly sold a diamond-set Rolex watch (another gift from Saudi Arabia) and a Patek Philippe timepiece from the government of Bahrain to Precision Watches & Jewelry, a dealer in the Willow Grove Park mall just north of Philadelphia, following Bolsonaro’s trip to the Summit of the Americas last year. The former president allegedly received $68,000 in cash from the sale.

Bolsonaro and his lawyers claim that the gifts are his to do with as he pleases, but not everyone agrees. Brazilian law allows ex-presidents to keep some personal gifts, but not items of high value, such as jewelry. A government-appointed panel declared that most of the items that Bolsonaro’s aides have tried to sell are personal property, but the judge overseeing the case says there is evidence the panel was pressured to do so. Regardless, even if the jewelry belonged to Bolsonaro, he would have been required to get permission to sell the items, which he did not.

Bolsonaro isn’t alone in facing scrutiny for his handling of foreign gifts. Trump has been accused of failing to document more than a hundred foreign gifts valued at over $250,000. Of course, both men have bigger legal worries. The former U.S. president has been indicted four times since the start of the year, most recently for attempting to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. His Brazilian counterpart, meanwhile, was barred from running for office until at least 2030 after spreading false claims about the country’s voting system after his reelection bid failed last year. Bolsonaro is also facing trial in several other cases.

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