Prosecutors to probe Covid-19 vaccine graft claims against Brazil's Bolsonaro

BRASILIA (AFP) – The office of Brazil’s attorney-general said on Friday (July 2) it had opened a probe into claims that President Jair Bolsonaro knew about, but failed to report, alleged corruption in the purchase of a coronavirus vaccine.

“In a notice this Friday morning, the Attorney-General’s office informed the Federal Supreme Court of the opening of an investigation into events reported” by three senators, who have formally accused the president of malfeasance.

The preliminary probe will serve to determine whether to pursue charges against the president.

Last week, Brazil’s senate heard accusations that a deal to purchase the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine was a front to embezzle millions of dollars, that a Bolsonaro ally masterminded the plan, and that the president knew all about it.

A health ministry official testified that his superiors had exerted “atypical, excessive” pressure on him to approve payment for the deal, which he suspected was over-billed.

The official and his brother Luis Miranda, a congressman close to Bolsonaro, said they took the matter to the president, but he took no action.

Following these allegations, three Brazilian senators on Monday formally accused Bolsonaro of malfeasance before the Supreme Court.

Attorney-General Augusto Aras, whose job it is to decide whether to bring charges, is an ally of the president, as is his deputy Humberto Jacques de Medeiros.

Medeiros had asked the Supreme Court to reject the senators’ request, but this was denied by judge Rosa Weber, who said the attorney general’s office could not be “a spectator of the actions of the powers of the republic.”

Madeiros was thus compelled to file a request to the Supreme Court for authorisation to seek information on the case “and the eventual transfer of evidence” collected by other judicial and legislative bodies.

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