Brazilian police raided the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia on Wednesday in the framework of an investigation into the alleged falsification of vaccination certificates against covid-19, which he denied.
The far-right former president, who ruled Brazil from 2019 to 2022, confirmed the search of his residence, in which he said his cell phone was confiscated, and accused authorities of trying to "manufacture a case" against him.
"There is no adulteration on my part. I did not get vaccinated, period. I never denied that," Bolsonaro told reporters outside his residence in the Brazilian capital
"I am really surprised by the search and seizure. I have nothing more to say," he said.
The former president, a skeptic of the anticovid vaccine, challenged expert advice on handling the pandemic. He repeatedly repeated that he would not get vaccinated, and went so far as to say that whoever did so ran the risk of becoming an "alligator."
Bolsonaro faced widespread criticism for his fight against Covid-19, which has killed more than 700,000 people in Brazil.
Without mentioning the former president, the Federal Police (PF) reported that it was investigating "a criminal association" suspected of inserting "false vaccination data against covid-19 into public health systems."
"The false insertions, which occurred between November 2021 and December 2022, resulted in the alteration of the truth about (...) the immunization status against covid-19 of the beneficiaries," said the statement released by the Ministry. of Justice and Security.
The alleged forgery allowed people "to issue the respective vaccination certificates and use them to circumvent the current health restrictions imposed by public authorities (Brazil and the United States) aimed at preventing the spread (...) of covid-19," adds the note.
Defeated in the October presidential elections, Bolsonaro traveled to the United States on December 30, two days before the inauguration of his left-wing successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. There he remained until March 30.
The vaccination certificate is mandatory to enter the United States until May 11, when the rule will cease to apply, the White House announced Monday.
Police said that as part of the operation on Wednesday it was carrying out 16 search warrants, in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, and executing six arrest warrants.
According to Brazilian media, the PF arrested, among others, Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, Bolsonaro's former deputy, considered his right-hand man during the presidency. Bolsonaro has been interviewed twice by the Federal Police. On April 5, he had to give a statement for the investigation opened for the irregular entry into Brazil of valuable jewels given by Saudi Arabia in 2021. And last week, he had to testify before the PF as part of another investigation into his alleged role in the riots of January 8, when thousands of his followers invaded the headquarters of the three state powers in the Brazilian capital.