The Swiss jeweler Chopard, the brand of diamonds offered by the Saudi prince to Michelle Bolsonaro, has already been involved in a similar scandal in France. Considering an investigation by the French press, there would be a modus operandi in common between Bolsonaro’s diamonds and the transport of jewels by the Swiss company to other countries in Europe.
An article in the newspaper Le Parisien published in April last year points to a systematic scheme within the company in Geneva to circumvent French customs. According to the investigation, the company uses “mules” and different methods to make the jewels cross borders without paying taxes.
Although the company’s headquarters are located in Europe, Switzerland is not part of the “Schengen area”, which means that transport to any country in the European Union is subject to customs control. According to Le Parisien, the French authorities are investigating the illegal crossing of the jewels by employees or directors of the company.
“According to our sources, the French authorities are keeping an eye on the prestigious brand and these ‘pocket-in-the-pocket’ jewels carried by employees”, says the Le Parisien report.
Not far removed from former Minister of Mines and Energy Bento Albuquerque, who was carrying the jewelry in a backpack when he was intercepted in Guarulhos, Le Parisien identified more “sophistication” in the illegal entry of the Swiss company’s jewelry into France.
“In July 2018, Caroline Scheufele, Co-President of Chopard, came to attend Fashion Week in Paris. She passed the inspection with a necklace of great value, described on a specialized website as ‘a set of 17 emeralds, of absolute rarity. Studded in a timeless necklace, these stones were associated with two D-Flawless diamonds, the largest of which weighs at least 20 carats’. Once the shows were over, the Chopard manager left the jewel, which officially does not exist, on the premises of her company”. The publication suggests that the material therefore entered France without declaration.
According to Le Parisien, which claims to have gained access to Chopard’s internal e-mail exchanges, the director of the Swiss company’s branch in Paris asked at that moment for regularization of the jewelry left by the president.
According to the newspaper, the director suggests that the necklace be sent to Chopard in Hong Kong. But an official reacts by stating that the operation is impossible: “If it (the piece) is not registered anywhere here, unfortunately it cannot be taken out of the territory, even less to Hong Kong”, quotes Le Parisien.
“If there is a theft like the one in 2015 (in December of that year, the store in Place Vendôme was robbed, with a loss of approximately 1 million euros) and that jewel is stolen, officially it does not exist”, warns another employee, quoted by the French newspaper.
Le Parisien’s report points out that the solution found in this case and in several others in the following years was to issue false invoices. “I hope there aren’t any other parts under the table in Vendôme,” says one employee, in what Le Parisien interprets as a tiredness of the scheme. “The correspondences lead to believe in a known and well-established modus operandi”.
The Parisian daily points out that the clandestine transport of jewels also occurs in the opposite direction and that the director of Chopard would be a kind of “luxury mule”.
“Caroline had a flight on Friday at the end of the afternoon and picked up the jewelry before leaving in Vendôme (where the branch is located in Paris)”, mentions in an e-mail the director of the store, according to Le Parisien.
Different press vehicles in France report attempts to contact the company, with no response.
Considering the international clandestine transport scheme for Chopard jewels, the similarity with the Bolsonaro case is noteworthy, since it is the same brand and its potential mode of transport by means of a “luxury mule”.
The case of Jair and Michelle, however, takes on greater proportions as it involves at least the actions of two states, the Brazilian and the Saudi, through the intermediary of a state minister.
An exchange of information about the ongoing investigations between the Brazilian and French police could help to clarify whether the Bolsonaros were just the target of an interstate kindness or whether the transport of the jewels was part of an international clandestine scheme.