BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian police on Wednesday raided the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro, detaining trusted aides and confiscating his cell phone as part of an investigation into his vaccination records.
The investigation may answer questions about how Bolsonaro, a strident coronavirus skeptic who has vowed never to get a COVID vaccine, was recorded as vaccinated in health records made public in February.
Supreme Court documents showed federal police found evidence of tampering with Bolsonaro’s vaccine records in his final weeks as president in late December, before he traveled to the United States, where most foreign visitors must be vaccinated.
Bolsonaro confirmed to reporters the raid on his home in Brasilia and confirmed that he had not taken any coronavirus vaccine. He denied any role in the alleged forgery of documents.
“On my part, nothing was faked. I didn’t take the vaccine. Period,” he said, adding that his phone had been seized.
The vaccine investigation is one of several that are putting the former far-right leader under pressure, including investigations into allegations of voter suppression, his attacks on the legality of Brazilian elections, and misappropriation of foreign gifts.
Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.
The Federal Police said in a statement that it is executing 16 search warrants and six preventive arrest warrants in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro as part of the operation, without naming the targets.
The Supreme Court, which is overseeing the case, released court documents on Wednesday, which included an arrest warrant for Mauro Cid, one of Bolsonaro’s personal aides when he was president, who remained an aide to him after he stepped down.
Court documents showed that police cited evidence that Syed engineered a scheme in which Bolsonaro was registered on Dec. 21 as having been vaccinated against COVID. According to the documents, the entry, which was carried out at the Public Health Bureau on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, was canceled after a week.
Bolsonaro’s personal security officers, Max Guilherme and Sergio Cordero, who remained on duty as part of his detail, were also arrested in Wednesday’s operation over accusations of falsifying their vaccination records before traveling with Bolsonaro to the United States.
Syed and the other aides could not be reached for comment.
Police said they are investigating a scheme to enter “false data” into a national COVID-19 database between November 2021 and December 2022.
“As a result, they were able to issue and use vaccine certificates to circumvent restrictions imposed by public authorities in Brazil and the United States,” the police said.
Police said the investigation pointed to “ideological” reasons for circumventing vaccination rules, “in order to continue the attacking rhetoric of vaccination against COVID-19”.
“We are confident that all legal doubts will be removed and it will be proven that Bolsonaro did not commit illegal acts,” Waldemar Costa Neto, the president of Bolsonaro’s political party, wrote on social media.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguaso) Editing by Stephen Grattan
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