Brazilian prosecutors urge probe of Bolsonaro over vaccine deal

Brasilia, Jul 2 (EFE).- Brazilian prosecutors told the country’s Supreme Court on Friday that they support calls from lawmakers for an investigation into possible misconduct by President Jair Bolsonaro in the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines for the nation with the world’s second-highest death toll from coronavirus.

A group of senators approached the high court on Monday with a request for the opening of a probe of the right-wing head of state.

On behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Rosa Weber asked the Attorney General’s Office to weigh in on whether such an investigation is warranted.

Under Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court can authorize a criminal probe of a senior executive branch official or member of Congress.

The administration faces scrutiny over the contract it signed with India’s Bharat Biotech to obtain 20 million doses of the Covaxin vaccine.

Last week, lawmaker Luis Miranda revealed irregularities in the transaction to the Senate committee reviewing Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic that has claimed nearly 520,000 lives in Brazil.

Documents presented by the congressman and his brother, Ricardo Miranda, a senior official in the health ministry, showed that the deal included provision for part of the payment to go to a firm not mentioned in the official contract, Singapore-based Madison.

The Senate panel deemed “highly suspicious” the involvement of Madison and of a Brazilian “intermediary” – Francisco Maximiano – who is already under investigation for allegedly defrauding the health ministry.

Luis Miranda told the committee that when he raised his suspicions about the transaction with Bolsonaro in March, the president told him that the leader of the government bloc in the lower house, former Health Minister Ricardo Barros, was behind the murky deal.

Miranda said that Bolsonaro assured him he would pass on the lawmaker’s concerns about the Covaxin contract to the AG Office, but the president never acted on that assurance.

In a related matter, the AG Office filed charges Friday against army Gen. Eduardo Pazuello for offenses committed during his September 2020-March 2021 tenure as health minister.

The accusations against Pazuello also center on the question of vaccine acquisition.

“The omission and negligence of the ex-minister in the attempts to negotiate for vaccines cost society dearly,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Pazuello’s “resistance” to acting with the necessary speed and planning to obtain vaccines in a timely manner was “unjustifiable and unreasonable,” the statement added, attributing “nearly 100,000 deaths” to the delay. EFE as-nbo/dr

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