Brazilian police raided the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday and seized his cell phone as part of a full-scale investigation into falsified COVID-19 vaccination records that has seen him and his top aides deported to the United States. was allowed to enter.
Authorities searched more than a dozen homes in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, arresting six people suspected of tampering with government vaccination databases and releasing false records, including one of President Bolsonaro’s closest aides and his Two guards were involved.
Investigators said a forged vaccine card may have allowed President Bolsonaro and his allies to circumvent US travel restrictions imposed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bolsonaro, his 12-year-old daughter Laura and other senior officials in his administration may have been issued fake vaccine certificates, according to Brazilian officials. Police said the vaccination records between November 2021 and December 2022 were forged.
On Wednesday, Bolsonaro denied allegations that he had been vaccinated and said that US immigration officials had never asked him to show his vaccination records.
“I never said I was vaccinated,” Bolsonaro told reporters in front of his home in Brasilia after handing over his phone to police. He confirmed that the decision not to get vaccinated was a “personal decision” and that his daughter was also not vaccinated.
Mr Bolsonaro was named as a suspect in the investigation, according to documents released on Wednesday by Brazil’s Supreme Court. In its decision to authorize the search, the Supreme Court stated that the investigation’s connection between the president and the possible crime was “plausible, logical and compelling”.
During his tenure as Brazil’s right-wing president, Mr. Bolsonaro consistently dodged questions about whether he had been vaccinated against the virus. His vaccination status has become so controversial that in 2021 Congress will keep Mr Bolsonaro’s vaccination record secret for 100 years.
President Bolsonaro has visited the United States at least four times during the pandemic, including taking a delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2021. During the trip, he posted a photo of himself and a crew eating pizza outside, leading to speculation whether the group was banned from eating indoors due to COVID-19.
President Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for delaying the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine and for spreading misinformation about the vaccine. At one point he claimed that a vaccine could turn a Brazilian into a crocodile.
A Brazilian congressional investigation concluded that Bolsonaro should be charged with “crimes against humanity” over his handling of the pandemic that has killed 700,000 people in Brazil. Prosecutors did not pursue these charges.
Police were expected to question Mr Bolsonaro later on Wednesday about the falsified vaccination records.
After the raid on his home, the usually brash Bolsonaro gave a scathing speech on a right-wing television program. He said, ‘There was no such moment when there was a need for vaccination card while going to America.’ “So there was no cheating on my part. He also showed tears during the interview.
Among those arrested on Wednesday was military officer Mauro Cid Barbosa, secretary and advisor to President Bolsonaro.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cited Bolsonaro’s mismanagement of the pandemic in last year’s presidential election, which he won by a narrow margin. Vowing to tread on a veil of secrecy, Mr. Lula launched an investigation into the hundreds of secret seals that had been put up during Bolsonaro’s presidency.
“I’m going to tell the Brazilians why they hide so much,” Lula told Bolsonaro in a debate last year.
Separately, Bolsonaro is facing multiple investigations, including allegations of spreading election disinformation and inciting attacks on Brazil’s parliament, Supreme Court and Oval Office on 8 January. Brazil’s electoral tribunal is set to rule this month on a case accusing Bolsonaro of abuse of office after he criticized Brazil’s voting system in a speech to foreign diplomats ahead of last year’s presidential election.
He is also the subject of several Supreme Court investigations, including one over his handling of the pandemic. allegations of spreading misinformation; Confidential information was leaked while discussing the hacking of the national electoral agency to support unfounded claims that Brazil’s voting system is insecure.
If found guilty in any investigation, Bolsonaro may be found ineligible for the presidency in the next election.