Police seek charges over Bolsonaro's fake Covid certificate

Agence France-Presse
Police seek charges over Bolsonaro's fake Covid certificate
In this file photo taken on October 28, 2022, Brazilian President and reelection candidate for the Liberal Party (PL) Jair Bolsonaro gestures before the start of the television debate at the Globo TV studio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The office of Brazil's prosecutor general (PGR) moved Friday January 13, 2023 to include ex-president Jair Bolsonaro in an investigation of people suspected of "instigation and intellectual authorship" of the January 8 sacking of government buildings in Brasilia.
AFP / Mauro Pimentel

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Brazil's police have recommended that Jair Bolsonaro be charged for the alleged forging of his Covid vaccination certificate, adding to the former president's panoply of legal woes.

Bolsonaro has been under investigation since last year over an alleged plot to falsify his Covid vaccination records during a presidency in which he came under fire for dismissing the severity of the pandemic.

The federal police said in a 231-page report that Bolsonaro and 16 other people had plotted to issue "the false certificates to obtain undue advantages" as the virus raged.

It is now up to the Attorney General's office to decide whether to charge Bolsonaro in the case.

Bolsonaro, who once joked the vaccine could "turn you into an alligator," has previously admitted he is not vaccinated.

This was exactly the defense put forward by his lawyer Fabio Wajngarten, who wrote on social network X Tuesday: "It is public and known worldwide that the former president Jair Messias Bolsonaro, for personal convictions, never used any immunizer against Covid-19."

Police are investigating charges of criminal association and "insertion of false data into the public system" -- both punishable with imprisonment.

But Wajngarten said the ex-president never "knew that any of his advisers had made false vaccination certificates," adding that whoever did so acted on their own initiative.

The 68-year-old was questioned by police in connection with the allegations in May last year, and his house was raided.

He denied the charges, saying authorities were trying to "fabricate a case" against him.

Brazil's comptroller general's office in January confirmed that Bolsonaro's Covid vaccination certificate was forged, but recommended closing the case due to "lack of sufficient evidence" over who had entered the false data.

'I received an order'

Bolsonaro faced severe criticism for his management of the pandemic, after opposing lockdown measures and telling Brazilians to "stop whining" as deaths reached record highs.

Public health records showed he received the vaccine in Sao Paulo in July 2022, but the comptroller's office found this was fraudulently entered.

Wajngarten had previously described the allegations as "absurd."

"While he served as president, (Bolsonaro) was completely exempt from presenting any type of certificate on his trips," he said, and slammed what he called "political persecution."

The police investigation shows that a close Bolsonaro aide, army colonel Mauro Cid, admitted introducing the fake data into the public health system.

"I received an order from the former president of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro, to insert the false data on behalf of him and his daughter Laura Bolsonaro. Those certificates were printed and I delivered them into the hands of the president," Cid said, according to an excerpt of his police statement included in the report.

Cid was arrested in May 2023 over his involvement in the scheme and later released after a plea deal.

The police report said a doctor, health officials, a lawyer, soldiers, and several other Bolsonaro subordinates were also involved in the plot.

Bolsonaro is mired in legal challenges, including an investigation into an alleged coup plot to stay in power after he lost the 2022 election.

He is also being probed over the alleged misappropriation of gifts received from other nations, such as jewelry offered by Saudi Arabia.

Bolsonaro has also been banned from holding public office until 2030 over his attacks on the election system.

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