Jair Bolsonaro is under investigation in Brazil for allegedly harassing a whale off Sao Paulo

Former President Jair Bolsonaro addresses supporters during a rally in Sao Paulo., Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. Bolsonaro and some of his former top aides are under investigation into allegations they attempted plotted a coup to remove his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is under investigation for having allegedly “harassed” a humpback whale while riding a personal watercraft off Sao Paulo's coast last year.

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, 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 personal watercraft close to a whale, seemingly recording the encounter with a cellphone. Federal prosecutors, who are also investigating the case, said the man appeared to be Bolsonaro.

Under Brazilian legislation, motored vessels must keep a minimum distance of 100 meters 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 personal watercraft seemed to be about 15 meters from the animal, prosecutors said last year.

For Bolsonaro's large base, 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 Bolsonaro for allegedly plotting a coup, in an attempt to remove his successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from power. Bolsonaro, whose passport was seized in a previous police operation, chose to remain silent.

Supreme Court documents show that investigators believe that Bolsonaro and some of his aides, including former ministers and top military advisers, prepared a decree that would have declared the 2022 election vote fraudulent, had Bolsonaro lost the election to his leftist opponent, Lula.

The decree also planned for the arrest of a Supreme Court justice and the convening of a new election. Bolsonaro lost, but the decree was never issued, and the alleged plan was never set into action.

Bolsonaro was also ruled ineligible to run for office until 2030 by a panel of judges, who concluded that he had abused his power and cast unfounded doubts on the country’s electronic voting system.

Last year, Bolsonaro, his wife and close aides had to face investigators' questions in yet another case, after an attempt to sneak in diamond jewelry reportedly worth $3 million and the sale of two luxury watches Bolsonaro received as gifts from Saudi Arabia while in office.

Police are also investigating the nation’s intelligence agency and alleged spying on Bolsonaro’s political opponents during his term, which ended in December 2022.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing.

Legal experts say that if police can prove that 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 (just over $500).