BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian police on Wednesday raided the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro and arrested two of his personal aides as part of an investigation into fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination records, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The investigation may answer questions about how Bolsonaro, a strident coronavirus skeptic who has vowed never to get a COVID vaccine, was recorded as vaccinated in health records made public in February.
The vaccine investigation is one of several that are putting the former far-right leader under pressure, including investigations into allegations of voter suppression, attacks on the legality of Brazilian elections and misappropriation of foreign gifts.
Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing. His spokesperson and lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The federal police said in a statement it was carrying out 16 search warrants and six preventive arrest warrants in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro as part of the operation, but did not release the names of those targeted.
The sources, who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said the operation caught Mauro Cid and Max Guilherme, personal aides to Bolsonaro as president who remained his aides when he resigned in January.
Police said they are investigating “erroneous data” that was allegedly added to the national COVID-19 database between November 2021 and December 2022, when Bolsonaro was president.
“As a result, they were able to issue and use vaccine certificates to circumvent restrictions imposed by public authorities in Brazil and the United States,” the police said.
Police said the investigation pointed to “ideological” reasons for circumventing vaccination rules, “in order to go along with the attacking rhetoric of vaccination against COVID-19”.
“We are confident that all legal doubts will be removed and it will be proven that Brazil has not committed illegal acts,” Waldemar Costa Neto, president of Bolsonaro’s political party, wrote on social media.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguaso) Editing by Stephen Grattan
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”