Last week, Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Party) returned to the spotlight after a Federal Police (PF) report showed the former president’s alleged involvement in a scheme to sell gifts received by foreign delegations, such as jewelry sets from Saudi Arabia.
The evidence led the Federal Police to ask the Federal Supreme Court (STF), last Friday, August 11, to break the tax and bank secrecy of the former representative for alleged embezzlement of jewelry and other luxury items for his private property. The value obtained from the illegal sale of official gifts may have exceeded R$1 million (approximately US$200,000)
According to the corporation, an offensive was set up to circumvent the registration of gifts within the sector responsible for cataloging the objects at the Planalto Palace. Bolsonaro’s former aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, would be part of the scheme; as well as his father, retired general Mauro César Lourena; the second lieutenant of the Brazilian Army, Osmar Crivelatti, Mauro Cid’s right-hand man; and former Bolsonaro family lawyer Frederick Wassef.
They were the target of an operation by the Federal Police – named Luke 12:2, in reference to the biblical verse that says “for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” –, also triggered last Friday, August 11, with search warrants authorized by Supreme Court Minister Alexandre de Moraes. For the magistrate, there are indications that the scheme was carried out by Bolsonaro’s “determination”.
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In a note, the Federal Police stated that “there are strong indications that those investigated used the structure of the Brazilian State to divert goods of high patrimonial value gifted by foreign authorities to the President of the Republic (…) with the intention of generating the illicit enrichment of former president Jair Bolsonaro”.
The amounts obtained from the sales would have been “converted into cash and entered the personal assets of those investigated, through intermediary persons and with no use of the formal banking system, with the goal of hiding the origin, location and ownership of the values”.
The Brazilian Federal Police is also sharing all details of the investigation with the FBI, the US federal police agency. This could make Jair Bolsonaro, Mauro Cid and Mauro César Lourena subject to investigations in the United States for possible financial offenses, such as money laundering and the use of bank accounts to hide illicit amounts. In addition, the FBI must conduct investigations of the companies, stores and individuals who purchased the jewelry to determine whether they were aware of the illegal origin of the pieces.
Mauro Cid’s Father
In one of the attempts to sell the gifts, the face of Army General Mauro César Lourena was identified in a photo used to request an evaluation of the object in specialized stores in the United States, according to a report by the Brazilian Federal Police. When photographing a box with glass doors, the general photographed the reflection of his face. According to the Federal Police document, it was Mauro Cid himself who asked his father to send the objects to specialized stores.
The general also tried to sell gilded sculptures in the shape of a palm tree and a boat, but he was unsuccessful, as he discovered that they were not made of solid gold, but only plated with the metal. The matter was discussed between Mauro Cid and Bolsonaro’s then advisor Marcelo Câmara.
“Those two pieces I brought from Brazil: that ship and that tree; they are not gold. They have gold parts, but they are not all gold. So I’m not able to sell them. There’s a guy here who asked to take a closer look to see how much he can bid. I need to leave the piece there (…) so he can do the evaluation. So I’m going to do it, I’m going to leave the piece with him today.” The sculptures were gifts from the government of Bahrain in 2019.
Reserve general Mauro César Lourena was director of the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex) in the United States throughout Bolsonaro’s administration. In office, he received a salary of approximately R$63,000 per month (about US$12,700).
In another audio sent to Marcelo Câmara, Mauro Cid mentions a jewelry auction that would take place on February 8, 2023, to which he would send a jewelry set containing a watch. According to the Federal Police, it is one of the jewelry sets presented to Bolsonaro by Saudi Arabia. The men’s jewelry kit, consisting of a pen, a ring, a pair of cufflinks, an Arabic rosary (masbaha) and a watch, was taken by Mauro Cid to the United States on the same plane that took Jair Bolsonaro to Orlando, on December 30 of last year, on the eve of the end of his term.
As indicated on the website where the item was advertised, the starting price was US$50,000. The estimated value was in the range of approximately US$120,000 to US$140,000.
Scheme to recover the jewels
According to the Brazilian Federal Police, after the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) identified the existence of Saudi jewels and ordered the delivery of the objects to the Union, a scheme was carried out to recover the jewels sold in the United States by Mauro Cid, in March of this year.
“After being illegally diverted from the private collection of former President of the Republic Jair Bolsonaro, in November 2022, (the content) was evaded from the country, possibly by using the presidential plane, at the end of December 2022, bound for the United States of America. Then, Mauro Cesar Cid and other people not yet identified, sent the material to Fortuna Auction company in New York. On February 8, 2023, the kit was put up for auction, but it was not sold, and was not sold due to circumstances beyond the control of those being investigated,” said the Federal Police.
“Later, after the unsuccessful sale attempt, and with the press disclosing the existence of the aforementioned jewels, Mauro Cid, Marcelo Camara and Osmar Crivelatti organized a ‘rescue operation’ of the goods, which were sent to the city of Orlando in Florida , where former President Jair Bolsonaro resided. After the decision of the Federal Court of Accounts for the kit to be returned to the Brazilian State, those investigated internalized the goods, returning them on March 24, 2023 at the Caixa Econômica Federal branch, in the city of Brasília/Federal District”, says an excerpt from the investigation.
Mauro Cid also sold a Patek Philippe watch, on June 13, 2022, which would have been presented by Bahrain officials in 2021 and sold to a US store the following year. “The watch in that other kit is going to be on the 7th of February, it’s going to be auctioned. Then we’ll see how much they’re going to offer for it”, said Mauro Cid in a message also sent to Marcelo Câmara. The object would have been taken to the US on a trip to the United States in June last year, when Bolsonaro attended the Summit of the Americas.
The watch does not appear in the official records of the Planalto Palace, according to the Federal Police report. “No record of the Patek Philippe watch was identified (in the presidential collection), a fact that indicates the possibility that the aforementioned asset did not even pass through the then Assistant Cabinet of Historical Documentation, being diverted directly to the possession of former president Jair Bolsonaro”, says the report.
In the certificate of authenticity of the piece, which was received by Bolsonaro from the hands of Mauro Cid, the watch is valued at approximately US$51,000. The piece and another Rolex watch, a gift from Saudi Arabia, were sold by Mauro Cid, on June 13, 2022, at a store in Pennsylvania, in the United States, for US$68,000. The Federal Police investigation concluded that Mauro Cid was at the watch store through a Waze application scan and connection to the establishment’s Wi-Fi.
The amount of US$68,000 was deposited in General Mauro Cesar Lourena’s account, whose bank details were sent to Mauro Cid the day before. “The evidence collected indicates that Mauro Cid, after leaving the presidential entourage on June 13, 2022, traveled from Miami to the city of Willow Grove, in the state of Pennsylvania / USA. In the city, he went to Precision Watches company’s main store and sold the Rolex Day-Date watch, which was part of the so-called ‘White Gold kit'”, presented by Saudi Arabia.
“After completing the sale of the aforementioned watch, together with the Patek Philippe watch, the amount of US$68,000.00 was deposited, on the same day, into Mauro Cesar Lourena Cid’s bank account, father of Mauro Cesar Barbosa Cid”, says the investigation.
The attempt to recover the Patek Philippe watch, after the determination of its return by the Brazilian Federal Court of Accounts, had the participation of Frederick Wassef, who traveled to Pennsylvania in March of this year and repurchased the object.
In another message, Mauro Cid tells Marcelo Câmara that his father would have US$25,000 supposedly belonging to the former president. The former president’s aide also demonstrates the need to hand over cash so that the transition would not be identified by the authorities.
“There are twenty-five thousand dollars with my father. I was seeing that it was better to do with that money to take it in ‘cash’ there. My father even wanted to go there and talk to the president. And then he could take it. He would hand it over. But you can also deposit into the account. I think the less movement into account, the better, right?”. Marcelo Câmara replies: “Better bring it in cash”, said Cid in a message sent to Câmara in January this year.
Digital militia inquiry
The search operation carried out last Friday, August 11, was a result of the investigation by the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court on the activities of digital militias, reported in the Federal Supreme Court by Minister Alexandre de Moraes. The investigation began with the investigation into the anti-democratic acts of 2020. According to the Federal Police, the organization responsible for the acts of 2020 was responsible for the entire coup escalation until it arrived with the attacks on the electoral system in 2022.
In total, the inquiry has five lines of investigation that relate anti-democratic acts, attacks on the electoral process, the spread of misinformation during the pandemic, the attempted coup d’état in Brazil and the use of the State to obtain personal advantages, like selling the gifts. All these events would have been mobilized by the same group of allies and colleagues of Jair Bolsonaro, which justifies Operation Luke 12:2 having started from the digital militias inquiry.
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In the case of suspected use of the state apparatus to obtain advantages, so far there has not been enough evidence to directly implicate Jair Bolsonaro in the investigations. This is due to the fact that the investigation of suspicious transactions carried out by members of the team led by Mauro Cid was still ongoing.
The new findings by the Brazilian Federal Police, however, could directly implicate Bolsonaro in the illegal sale of jewelry and other valuables given to the Brazilian state, as there are messages that show that the former president received the money from the sale of the items.
Authorized by the Federal Supreme Court, the breaking of Bolsonaro’s tax and banking secrecy may help in the collection of evidence to hold the former president accountable.
Edited by: Thalita Pires