(Bloomberg) – Brazil’s attorney general has asked the country’s highest court to investigate President Jair Bolsonaro for possible negligence in handling allegations of corruption related to the purchase of vaccines from India.
Negotiations to buy the Covaxin vaccine, produced by Bharat Biotech International Ltd., turned into a scandal when a government ally said it had personally warned Bolsonaro that a contract signed by the Health Ministry to purchase 20 million doses of the 1.6 billion reais (US $ 317 million) vaccine was riddled with irregularities.
“It is necessary to clarify what measures have been taken after the meeting” in which Bolsonaro was allegedly warned of the case by his ally, Deputy Attorney General Humberto Jacques de Medeiros wrote in his decision on Friday.
The ally, Deputy Luis Mirand, described a series of problems in the negotiations, including the use of an intermediary company, during his testimony before a congressional commission that is already examining the government’s handling of the pandemic. Although there is no indication that Bolsonaro personally benefited from the transaction, members of the commission asked the highest court to investigate him for turning a blind eye to the accusations.
Judge Rosa Weber, who is handling the case in the highest court, sought the opinion of the attorney general before making a decision. The deputy attorney general then requested authorization from the court to hear all those involved and for the congressional commission to share with the police the evidence collected so far.
The Brazilian real briefly reversed its gains on news of the investigation, first reported by Globonews TV. The impact was short-lived and the currency was up 0.3% at 12:30 pm in São Paulo.
A Supreme Court-authorized police investigation is the latest political headache for Bolsonaro, who already faces an additional 90 days of an investigation in Congress into his handling of the pandemic. The Senate committee’s findings have encouraged the opposition to file a “super impeachment” petition against the president, combining all elements of more than 100 previous petitions piling up on the desk of the Speaker of the House, Arthur. Lira, an ally of the Government.
Bolsonaro’s office declined to comment. Since the scandal broke, Bolsonaro has said that he cannot follow everything that happens in the government and that he trusts his ministers. He also pointed out that he was wrongly accused of corruption for the purchase of a vaccine that was never completed.
After signing the contract to buy the Covaxin doses, the Health Ministry suspended it earlier this week “for further analysis.” No payment has been made and no vaccines have been delivered. Bolsonaro on Wednesday removed a Health Ministry official who was cited for exerting unusual pressure to speed up the deal.
Original Note: Bolsonaro to Face Probe Into Alleged Negligence in Vaccine Case
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