Brazil top prosecutor to investigate Jair Bolsonaro over COVID-19 vaccine deal

The Globe And Mail

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Nov. 10, 2020.

Brazil’s top prosecutor agreed on Friday to request an investigation of President Jair Bolsonaro for dereliction of duty in the process of procuring an Indian COVID-19 vaccine, according to a copy of the request seen by Reuters.

The president has been caught up in allegations of irregularities surrounding the 1.6 billion reais ($316 million) contract signed in February for 20 million doses with a Brazilian intermediary for the vaccine’s maker, Bharat Biotech. The government suspended the contract on Tuesday after a Senate commission raised suspicions of overpricing and corruption.

Federal prosecutors and the comptroller general’s office, or CGU, are also investigating the alleged irregularities in a deal that has caused public outrage in Brazil, home to the world’s second highest number of COVID-19 deaths.

The scandal involving Bharat’s Covaxin vaccine has become a political nightmare for Bolsonaro in part because it allegedly involves the government’s chief whip in the lower house of Congress, Ricardo Barros.

The investigation of the president by the top prosecutor’s office, or PGR, has to be formally authorized by the Supreme Court, whose Justice Rosa Weber this week ordered it to take place immediately.

Prosecutor General Augusto Aras, who was appointed to the job by Bolsonaro, had wanted to delay an investigation until the Senate inquiry was over, but Justice Weber declined his request.

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