The home of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was raided on Wednesday May 3 by police, who also seized his phone and a weapon, as part of an investigation into the falsification of vaccination certificates against Covid-19 by those around him.
"I didn't tamper with anything. I haven't been vaccinated, period,” the far-right former president (2019-2022) told reporters outside his residence in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia. "All citizens are equal, but from there to search the home of an ex-president just to create a (media) event...", lamented the one whose management of the pandemic has been widely criticized.
The Federal Police (PF) explained in a press release that they had carried out sixteen searches, in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, targeting "a criminal network" suspected of "introducing false Covid vaccination data into public health systems". The fake vaccination certificates were "used to circumvent government-imposed health restrictions in Brazil and the United States," the statement also read.
Six arrest warrants have been issued. According to Brazilian media, the police arrested Mauro Cid, a former aide-de-camp and handyman for Bolsonaro during his presidency. He allegedly through contacts in the health system or the administration obtained fraudulent vaccination certificates for Bolsonaro and his daughter, himself and members of his family, according to the police.
" Nothing to hide "
Bolsonaro would have been "fully aware" of the manipulation of health records allowing the corona-skeptical president and his entourage to circumvent international travel restrictions in particular, adds the PF. Alexandre de Moraes, the judge of the Supreme Court who ordered the searches, considered "plausible" the indications tending to prove a personal implication of the ex-president in these frauds.
"Conspiring against public health is a very serious act of corruption," Flavio Dino, justice minister in President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's leftist government, blasted Wednesday during a hearing in parliament. During his term, Mr. Bolsonaro constantly criticized anti-Covid vaccines, assuring that he had no intention of being immunized against the pandemic which killed more than 700,000 people in Brazil.
He even made headlines saying that Pfizer's vaccine could "turn (people) into crocodiles" because of possible side effects. “My phone was seized, but I have nothing to hide (…) There are prohibited subjects in Brazil, such as the issue of vaccines,” he told reporters on Wednesday. He explained that neither he nor his 12-year-old daughter Laura had been vaccinated, but that his wife Michelle had received a dose in 2021, in the United States. Later that day in an interview with the Jovem Pan channel, Jair Bolsonaro said he was "treated well" by the police, who he said were "embarrassed" to search his home.
Investigation into donated jewelry and the riots in Brasilia
Defeated by Lula in the presidential election in October, Jair Bolsonaro, 68, then stayed three months in Florida, leaving Brazil two days before the inauguration of his successor. The vaccination certificate was still mandatory to enter the United States during this stay. The US government announced on Monday that this requirement would be lifted from May 11.
The presentation of this certificate is not required for representatives of foreign governments, but Mr. Bolsonaro's mandate ended on December 31, the day after his arrival in the United States. It was not known if he was then under the obligation of vaccination. A State Department spokesman limited himself to telling the press that the records of individual visas were confidential.
"Every time I went to the United States, I was never asked to show my vaccination certificate," Bolsonaro assured Jovem Pan. One of his lawyers, Paulo Cunha Bueno, said the ex-president would go "as soon as possible" to the Federal Police to provide clarification, but only once his defense had access to the file.
Since his return to Brazil at the end of March, Jair Bolsonaro has been interviewed twice by the Federal Police. The first, in a case of jewelry offered by Saudi Arabia illegally entered Brazil and last week, for his alleged role in the ransacking of places of power by his supporters on January 8 in Brasilia. He is also under investigation by the Superior Electoral Court, which could make him ineligible for the 2026 presidential election.