The Federal Court of Auditors (TCU), which controls the government’s coffers, also ordered the far-right ex-army captain to hand over to the collection of the presidential palace two weapons he received as gifts from the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
Under Brazilian law, public officials can only keep gifts “that are both highly personal and of minimal monetary value”, court president Bruno Dantas told a public hearing, giving Bolsonaro “five days to return all objects involved in this case to … the rightful owner, the presidential palace.”
The unanimous court ruling is the latest chapter in a drama that has dominated headlines in Brazil since allegations emerged earlier this month that Bolsonaro tried to illegally import millions of dollars worth of jewelry that he and his wife had received as gifts from Saudi Arabia.
The episode turned into a legal and political headache for the ex-president, who is currently in the United States and is expected to return to Brazil soon, hoping to lead the opposition to his leftist successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro, who denies any wrongdoing, had offered through his lawyers to hand over the jewelry to authorities pending the outcome of investigations.
The scandal erupted when the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that customs officers intercepted an aide to Bolsonaro’s mines and energy minister who was trying to enter Brazil with a backpack containing diamond jewelry from the Swiss luxury company Chopard after an official trip to Saudi Arabia in October 2021.
It later emerged that Bolsonaro had kept a second set, also from Chopard, which entered Brazil undetected after the same trip.
Travelers entering Brazil with goods worth more than $1,000 are required to declare them and pay heavy import taxes.
The media estimated the value of the jewelry at $3.2 million for the first set and at least $75,000 for the second.
They could also have entered Brazil tax-free as official gifts to the nation. But then they would have belonged to the collection of the presidential palace, not to the first family.