saudi arabia

Brazil’s Bolsonaro accused by ex-aide’s lawyer of ordering sale of jewelry given as official gift

BRASILIA, Brazil — Then Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ordered an aide to sell undeclared luxury jewelry received as a gift and funnel the money to him, a lawyer for the aide charged Friday.

Cezar Bittencourt, who represents Bolsonaro’s former right-hand man, Lt. Col. Mauro Cid, said his client had recounted receiving those orders from Bolsonaro shortly before the president left office at the end of last year.

The claim was initially reported in an interview published Friday by the Brazilian magazine Veja, and Bittencourt confirmed his comments in a phone call with The Associated Press.

Bittencourt said that in December 2022, Cid asked about a Rolex watch the president was given by government of Saudi Arabia in 2019. Bolsonaro replied that Cid should “deal with it,” which eventually led to the aide selling two watches in the U.S. and handing the money to Bolsonaro, the attorney said.

A week ago, Brazil’s Federal Police charged that Bolsonaro received cash from the nearly $70,000 sale of the two watches. They were part of a total of three sets of jewelry given to the then president by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Officials from Bolsonaro’s office brought the jewelry into Brazil without declaring them, which sparked suspicions of money laundering and illegal personal possession of government items. That investigation became public in March.

Brazil requires citizens arriving by plane from abroad to declare goods worth more than $1,000 and pay a tax of 50% of the value above that threshold. The jewelry would be exempt from tax if it was an official gift to Brazil, but would not have been Bolsonaro’s to keep.

Bolsonaro and his lawyers contend the sets of jewelry were personal gifts and therefore can be sold as he wishes. Investigators say he did not register the jewelry

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Human rights group says UAE has detained lawyer who represented Khashoggi

A human rights group alleged on Friday that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) detained a lawyer that previously represented the other journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said in a press release that Asim Ghafoor, who is a US citizen and a board member of the organization, sent a text early Thursday saying that he had been approached by two UAE security agents while he was at the airport in Dubai. Ghafoor was on his way to a family wedding in Turkey and had been waiting for his next flight.

DAWN said it also received a photo from him showing him inside a police wagon, but did not hear from him after that.

The group said in its press release it believed he had been detained “on what appears to be a politically motivated in absentia conviction.”

DAWN noted that it had also reached out to the State Department about the situation and that a senior official told it they were working on his case.

“We are outraged at the unjustified detention of our board member and extremely concerned for his health and physical security given the well-documented record of abuse in the UAE, including torture and inhuman treatment,” Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s executive director, said in a statement.

“We urge the Biden administration to secure the release of an arbitrarily detained American lawyer before agreeing to meet with the UAE’s leader [Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan] in Jeddah tomorrow.”

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the department was aware of Ghafoor’s arrest and had “raised his detention at senior levels with Emirati authorities.”

“We are watching his case closely and providing appropriate consular support; consular officers from the US Embassy visited him today. We have conveyed our expectation

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