Brazil police accuse Bolsonaro of fraud in vaccine records

FILE PHOTO: Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures while standing in front of his house before testifying to the Federal Police in Brasilia
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By Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil's federal police formally accused former President Jair Bolsonaro of fraud on his vaccination records, opening the door to criminal charges, according to a police report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

An investigation by the comptroller general's office had already found that Bolsonaro's vaccination records were falsified to suggest he was vaccinated against COVID-19 in Sao Paulo in July 2021, when he was not in the city.

Police found in their report that Bolsonaro could be charged with falsifying data in the country's public health system (SUS) and forming a criminal organization to evade public health rules.

One of his former aides, Mauro Cid, who was arrested in May in the investigation and released as part of a plea bargain, was also formally accused in the police report.

Police found that Cid fraudulently obtained vaccination records for Bolsonaro and his daughter Laura at the request of the then-president. Cid's plea bargain testimony was used as evidence against his former boss.

Bolsonaro told Reuters that he had not taken the COVID vaccine or done anything wrong: "It's a selective investigation. I'm calm," said the former president. "The world knows that I didn't take the vaccine."

The police said that the fraudulent certificates were issued "to obtain undue advantages related to the evasion of sanitary rules established during the pandemic period".

During his tenure, Bolsonaro repeatedly downplayed the importance of immunization and social distancing measures during the pandemic, which killed more than 700,000 people in Brazil.

The police report accusing Bolsonaro of crimes paves the way for Brazil's prosecutor general to present criminal charges before the Supreme Court.

Bolsonaro has already been ruled politically ineligible until 2030 for spreading electoral misinformation during the 2022 election. Police recently seized his passport while probing his efforts to cling onto power after he lost to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the election.

Last week, the former heads of Brazil's army and air force confirmed that Bolsonaro discussed a draft decree to prevent the handover of power after the election.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia, Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo; Writing by Peter Frontini; Editing by Steven Grattan, Brad Haynes and Daniel Wallis)