Federal police in Brazil searched the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro and seized his phone in relation to an investigation into alleged falsification of COVID-19 vaccine cards.
Brazil’s Federal Police said in a statement Wednesday that their officers carried out 16 searches and made six arrests in Rio de Janeiro amid an investigation into fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine data that was entered into the Brazilian health system, according to the Associated Press. While the statement did not name the former president, Bolsonaro confirmed to reporters that his home was among those searched.
A Federal Police official told the Associated Press that Bolsonaro will be deposed at Federal Police headquarters, while one of his closest advisors, Mauro Cid, was among those arrested.
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According to police, false COVID-19 data was entered into the system between November 2021 and December 2022, enabling people with the fraudulent vaccine cards to meet entry requirements to the United States that were in place at the time.
Reports in Brazilian media alleged the vaccine cards of Bolsonaro, his advisors and his family members were among those altered during the time that the former president was speaking out against the efficacy of the vaccine and publicly vowing not to receive the shot. His refusal sparked speculation he would not be able to attend the U.N.’s General Assembly in New York City in September 2021, though the former president ultimately did make the trip.
According to police, the investigation centers around “ideological agendas” that were meant to “sustain the discourse aimed at attacking the vaccine against COVID-19.”
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“There was no adulteration on my part, it didn’t happen,” Bolsonaro told reporters on Wednesday after the search of his home. “I didn’t take the vaccine, period. I never denied that.”
At the height of the controversy, Bolsonaro argued that hydroxychloroquine was treatment for COVID-19 and warned the country’s residents that anyone who suffered side effects from getting vaccinated would have no legal recourse against Pfizer. The former president also attempted to link the vaccine to AIDS, comments that prompted an investigation by Brazil’s top court.
The search of the former president’s home comes as Bolsnaro faces multiple allegations of misconduct, including investigations into three sets of diamond jewelry he received from Saudi Arabia and his role in the uprising at the country’s capital by his supporters earlier this year.
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Bolsanaro has denied any wrongdoing in all the investigations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.