Brazil Police to Probe Bolsonaro’s Stay at Hungary Embassy

(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian police will investigate former President Jair Bolsonaro’s apparent extended visit to the Hungarian embassy in the days after authorities seized his passport as part of an investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The New York Times reported Monday that Bolsonaro, who considers himself a close ally of conservative Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, may have spent two days at the country’s embassy in Brasilia in February, just after police launched a sweeping operation into allegations that he and his allies attempted a coup after his 2022 election defeat.

Brazilian police would not have the authority to arrest Bolsonaro, should they seek to, if he was inside a foreign embassy.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes gave the former president 48 hours to explain the report. Bolsonaro’s lawyers confirmed that he had visited the embassy but denied that it was related to the investigation.

“The former Brazilian president spoke with numerous authorities of the friendly country, updating the political scenarios of both nations,” they said in a statement. “Any other interpretation,” they added, is “fake news.”

Brazil’s foreign ministry summoned Hungary’s ambassador, Miklos Halmai, to explain Bolsonaro’s visit, a spokesperson for the ministry said, adding that the conversation lasted about 20 minutes.

A spokesperson for Hungary’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the ministry didn’t have “anything to add beyond what President Bolsonaro has already said.” The embassy in Brazil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read More: Bolsonaro Targeted as Police Ensnares Alleged Coup Plotters

Bolsonaro is facing numerous probes, and police last week recommended criminal charges against him as part of a case over forged Covid-19 vaccine records. He is also under investigation for allegedly trying to bring $3 million worth of jewelry gifted to him by the government of Saudi Arabia into the country without declaring the items to customs agents.

Congressman Lindbergh Farias, a member of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party, said he would file a formal request with the country’s prosecutor general’s office for Bolsonaro’s arrest, arguing that the report proved that the former president is a flight risk.

Alexandre Padilha, Lula’s minister of institutional relations, told reporters Monday afternoon that Bolsonaro’s embassy visit had “revealed his plans to escape.”

Asked about the report while leaving a ceremony in Brazil’s congress, Prosecutor General Paulo Gonet requested “patience” in order to analyze the news, requests for Bolsonaro’s arrest and how to proceed.

Carlos Wehrs, a criminal law professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, said Bolsonaro’s embassy stay needs to be evaluated in the context of the police operation and court order to turn over his passport.

“The question is whether he requested or attempted to request asylum from the Hungarian authorities,” Wehrs said. “There is a possibility that authorities could interpret a potential request for asylum in a foreign country as an attempt to evade justice, which could result in a preventive arrest.”

--With assistance from Veronika Gulyas.

(Adds Supreme Court justice’s demand that Bolsonaro explains himself in fourth paragraph, comments from Hungary’s foreign ministry in seventh paragraph)

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