World

Bolsonaro under investigation for allegedly harassing a humpback whale

Brazil’s former president appeared at a police station in Sao Paolo to answer questions over the 2023 incident which was captured on video.

Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of approaching too close to a humpback whale (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Jair Bolsonaro Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of approaching too close to a humpback whale (AP Photo/Andre Penner) (Andre Penner/AP)

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is under investigation for having allegedly “harassed” a humpback whale while riding a jetski off Sao Paulo’s coast last year.

Mr Bolsonaro appeared at the federal police in Sao Paulo on Tuesday to meet with officers, along with his lawyer and former adviser who was also present at the time of the alleged incident.

The investigation is just one of the many legal headaches the former far-right leader is facing.

Since leaving office a year ago, Mr Bolsonaro has been banned from running for office until 2030, investigated for plotting a coup to remove his successor from power and stripped of his passport.

In a June 2023 video that circulated on social media, a man is seen riding a jetski close to a whale, seemingly recording the encounter with a mobile phone.

Federal prosecutors, who are also investigating the case, said the man appeared to be Mr Bolsonaro.

Under Brazilian legislation, motored vessels must keep a minimum distance of 100 metres from whales and other cetaceans.

Any intentional attempt to get closer can lead to a sentence of up to two to five years in prison and a fine.

The man on the jetski seemed to be about 15 metres from the animal, prosecutors said last year.

For Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters, the case is yet another example that their former leader is being politically persecuted – an argument he has often made since leaving office.

Last week, officers in the capital, Brasilia, questioned Mr Bolsonaro for allegedly plotting a coup, in an attempt to remove his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, from power.

Mr Bolsonaro, whose passport was seized in a previous police operation, chose to remain silent.

Legal experts say that if police can prove that Mr Bolsonaro intentionally approached the whale, he risked a fine at most.

According to online news site G1, a local politician found guilty on similar charges and in the same location was fined 2,500 reais (about £400).