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Bolsonaro Home Raided, Phone Seized in Probe of Brazil Vaccine Records

Wednesday, 03 May 2023 03:21 PM EDT

Brazilian police on Wednesday raided former President Jair Bolsonaro's home and seized his cell phone as part of an investigation into his COVID-19 vaccination records.

The investigation may answer questions about how Bolsonaro, a strident coronavirus skeptic who vowed never to get a COVID vaccine, was registered as vaccinated in health records made public in February.

A person familiar with the probe said federal police found evidence of tampering with Bolsonaro's vaccine records in his last weeks as president in late December, before he flew to the United States, where most foreign visitors must be vaccinated.

Bolsonaro confirmed the raid on his home in Brasilia to journalists and reiterated that he had never taken a COVID vaccine. He denied any role in allegedly forging documents.

"For my part, there was nothing falsified. I didn't take the vaccine. Period," he said, adding that his phone was seized.

The vaccine probe is one of many putting the former far-right leader under pressure, including investigations into alleged voter suppression, attacks on the legitimacy of Brazilian elections and embezzlement of foreign gifts.

Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

Federal police in a statement said they were serving 16 search warrants and six preventive arrest warrants in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro as part of the operation but did not disclose the names of those targeted.

People familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to discuss an open investigation, said police had arrested Mauro Cid, one of Bolsonaro's most trusted assistants as president who stayed on as an aide when he stepped down in January.

Cid's cell phone had evidence that Bolsonaro was registered on Dec. 21 as vaccinated against COVID, according to one of the sources. The entry, made in a public health office in suburban Rio de Janeiro, was removed a week later, the source added.

Bolsonaro's personal security officers Max Guilherme and Sergio Cordeiro, who have stayed on as part of his detail, were also arrested in Wednesday's operation.

Cid and the other aides could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police said they were investigating "false data" allegedly added to a national COVID-19 database between November 2021 and December 2022, when Bolsonaro was still president.

"As a result, they were able to issue vaccine certificates and use them to circumvent restrictions imposed by public authorities in Brazil and the United States," police said,

The investigation points to "ideological" reasons for circumventing vaccination rules, police said, "in order to keep up a discourse of attacking vaccination against COVID-19."

"We trust that all legal doubts will be cleared up and it will be proven that Bolsonaro did not commit illegal acts," Valdemar Costa Neto, the head of Bolsonaro's political party, wrote on social media. 

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


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Brazilian police on Wednesday raided former President Jair Bolsonaro's home and seized his cell phone as part of an investigation into his COVID-19 vaccination records.The investigation may answer questions about how Bolsonaro, a strident coronavirus skeptic who vowed never...
bolsonaro, brazil
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2023-21-03
Wednesday, 03 May 2023 03:21 PM
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