Brazil SC Gives Nod to Probe Against Prez Bolsonaro Over Covaxin Deal
President Jair Bolsonaro will be investigated for dereliction of duty in the process of procuring Covaxin.
An investigation of President Jair Bolsonaro by the top prosecutor's office, for dereliction of duty in the process of procuring an Indian COVID-19 vaccine, was authorised by Brazil's Supreme Court on Friday.
Justice Rosa Weber on Friday said that recent testimonies have shown allegations of potential corruption within the health ministry. The authorities have been given 90 days for collection of evidence pertaining to the case.
Dubbed as CovaxinGate, the multi-million dollar scandal has implicated the president in allegations of irregularities surrounding a 1.6 billion reais ($316 million) contract signed in February for 20 million doses with a Brazilian intermediary for the Indian vaccine manufacturer, Bharat Biotech.
Brazil federal prosecutors, on 22 June, launched an investigation into the contract.
Pending regulatory approvals, steep prices, and hastened negotiations in relation to the deal have been stipulated as the reasons behind the need for scrutiny over the contract finalised in February.
Brazil Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga on 29 June, had announced that the country will suspend its $324 million contract with Bharat Biotech.
The investigation will look at whether Bolsonaro committed the crime of "prevarication," which entails delaying or refraining from action required as part of a public official's duty for reasons of personal interest.
This comes after a logistics department official, Luís Ricardo Miranda, testified during a Senate probe that he was being coerced by Alex Lial Marinho, an associate of one of Bolsonaro's closest aides, the former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, to sign off on the import of the vaccines.
The official alleged that the government had received an invoice that required the payment of an advance of $45 million for 30 lakh vaccine doses from Madison Biotech, an offshore company located in Singapore that had no mention in the original contract.
Brazilian federal prosecutors and the comptroller general's office, or CGU, are also investigating the alleged irregularities in the deal.
Bolsonaro and Congress' Ricardo Barros have denied the accusations.
(With inputs from agencies)
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