Brazil ex-president’s home searched by police probing ‘fake COVID vaccine cards’

The home of Brazil’s ex-president Jair Bolsonaro has been searched by police investigating COVID-19 vaccine cards allegedly being falsified.

The cards of Mr Bolsonaro, his family members and his advisers had been changed, according to local media reports.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the country‘s former far-right president was a vocal coronavirus vaccine sceptic who doubted the efficacy of the jab and refused to get inoculated.

But health records made public in February this year suggested he was registered as vaccinated.

A federal police official said Mr Bolsonaro will be questioned and confirmed that one of his closest allies, Mauro Cid, was arrested.

The Federal Police’s press office said officers carried out 16 searches and arrested six people in Rio de Janeiro. The statement did not name Mr Bolsonaro or Mr Cid.

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Mr Bolsonaro confirmed to journalists that a raid took place at his Brasilia home and reiterated he had never received a COVID vaccine. He also denied any role in allegedly forging documents.

“For my part, there was nothing falsified. I didn’t take the vaccine. Period,” he said, adding his phone was seized.

Officers said they were investigating “false data” that was allegedly added to a national COVID-19 database between November 2021 and December 2022, when he was president.

A police statement said the alleged insertion of fake data enabled those whose vaccine cards were altered to comply with the US vaccine requirement to enter the country.

After losing to Lula da Silva in October’s presidential election and leaving office at the end of last year, Mr Bolsonaro recently returned to Brazil following several months in the US, where he mostly kept a low profile apart from some speaking engagements.

He is also facing several other investigations – including over his alleged role in encouraging protests that ended with his supporters storming several government buildings.

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As president, Mr Bolsonaro insisted the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine was a treatment for COVID, despite a lack of strong medical evidence.

Brazil’s number of deaths during the pandemic was the second highest in the world.

A congressional investigation found he should be indicted for bungling the nation’s COVID response, including him pushing unproven treatments.