BRASILIA, May 3 (Reuters) – Brazilian police on Wednesday raided the cellphone of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as part of an investigation into his Covid-19 vaccination records.
The investigation could answer questions about how Bolsonaro, a staunch coronavirus skeptic who has vowed not to get a COVID vaccine, was recorded as having been vaccinated in health records released in February.
A person familiar with the investigation said in late December that federal police found evidence that Bolsonaro had tampered with vaccination records in the final weeks of his presidency, requiring most foreign visitors to be vaccinated before they fly to the United States.
Bolsonaro confirmed the raid at his home in Brasilia to reporters and reiterated that he had never taken the Covid vaccine. He denied any role in allegedly producing fake documents.
“For my part, there’s no lying, I’m not vaccinated. Period,” he said, his phone seized.
The vaccine investigation is one of several that have put the former far-right leader under pressure, including voter suppression, attacks on the legitimacy of Brazilian elections and the rigging of foreign gifts.
Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.
Federal police said in a statement that 16 search warrants and six preventive arrest warrants were being issued in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro as part of the operation, but did not name those targeted.
People familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the open investigation, said police arrested Mauro Cid, one of Bolsonaro’s most trusted aides, who stayed on as an aide when he left office in January.
A source says there is evidence on Cid’s cell phone that Bolsonaro was vaccinated against Covid on December 21. The entry, made at 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 were part of his detail, were arrested in the operation on Wednesday.
CID and other aides could not immediately be reached for comment.
Police said they were investigating “false data” allegedly entered into the national COVID-19 database between November 2021 and December 2022 when Bolsonaro was president.
“As a result, they were able to issue vaccination certificates and use them to evade restrictions imposed by public authorities in Brazil and the United States,” police said.
The investigation points to “ideological” reasons for avoiding vaccination rules, police said, “in order to continue the discourse attacking the vaccine against COVID-19”.
“We hope that all legal doubts will be addressed and it will be proven that Bolsonaro did not commit illegal acts,” Valdemar Costa Neto, head of Bolsonaro’s political party, wrote on social media.
Report by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Steven Gratton
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