(Brasilia) Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose home was raided in Brasilia on Wednesday, has categorically denied any involvement in the falsification of vaccination certificates against COVID-19.
“I was surprised by this search […] I did not falsify anything. I haven’t been vaccinated, that’s all,” the far-right former head of state (2019-2022) told reporters outside his residence in the Brazilian capital.
“All citizens are equal, but from there to search the home of an ex-president just to create a [media] event…”, he lamented.
The Federal Police (PF) explained in a press release that they had carried out a total of 16 searches, in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, targeting “a criminal network” suspected “of introducing false vaccination data against COVID-19 into the systems of public health “. It does not explicitly mention Mr. Bolsonaro.
The fake vaccination certificates were “used to circumvent government-imposed health restrictions in Brazil and the United States,” the statement also read.
Six arrest warrants were also issued. According to Brazilian media, the police arrested Mauro Cid, former aide-de-camp to Mr. Bolsonaro, a soldier who was considered his handyman during his presidency.
“Conspiring against public health is a very serious act of corruption,” Flavio Dino, justice minister in President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s leftist government, blasted Wednesday during a hearing in parliament.
During his tenure, Mr. Bolsonaro has repeatedly criticized anti-COVID-19 vaccines, assuring several times that he had no intention of being immunized against the pandemic which has killed more than 700,000 died in Brazil.
He even made headlines saying that Pfizer’s vaccine could “turn (people) into crocodiles” because of possible side effects.
“My phone was seized, but I have nothing to hide […] There are forbidden subjects in Brazil, such as the issue of vaccines,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“In Brazil nowadays, anything is possible,” he sighed.
He explained that neither he nor his 12-year-old daughter Laura had been vaccinated, but that his wife Michelle received a dose in 2021, in the United States.
Later that day in an interview with the Jovem Pan channel, Jair Bolsonaro said he was “treated well” by the police, who he said were “embarrassed” to search his home.
Defeated by Lula in the presidential election in October, Jair Bolsonaro, 68, then stayed three months in Florida, leaving Brazil two days before the inauguration of his successor.
The vaccination certificate was still mandatory to enter the United States during this stay. The US government announced on Monday that this requirement would be lifted from May 11.
The presentation of this certificate is not required for representatives of foreign governments, but Mr. Bolsonaro’s mandate ended on December 31, the day after his arrival in the United States.
“Whenever I went to the United States, I was never asked to show my vaccination certificate,” he assured Jovem Pan.
One of his lawyers, Paulo Cunha Bueno, assured that the ex-president would go “as soon as possible” to the Federal Police to provide clarifications, but only once his defense has access to the file.
Since his return to Brazil at the end of March, with the firm intention of opposing the Lula government, Jair Bolsonaro has been interviewed twice by the Federal Police.
The first hearing took place on April 5, in a case of jewelry donated by Saudi Arabia that entered Brazil illegally.
And last week he was heard as part of an investigation into his alleged role in the riots of January 8 in Brasilia, when places of power were ransacked by individuals refusing to accept the election of Lula.
In both cases, the former ex-president had also denied any wrongdoing.
He is also under investigation by the Superior Electoral Court, which could make him ineligible for the 2026 presidential election.