Brazil's Supreme Court (STF) Justice Rosa Weber Friday acquiesced to a request from Deputy Attorney General Humberto Jacques de Medeiros to launch an inquiry into President Jair Bolsonaro's involvement in an alleged case of corruption regarding the purchase of Indian-made coronavirus vaccines.
”The Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) informed the Supreme Federal Court (STF) of the establishment of an investigation into the events denounced” by three senators, who accused Bolsonaro of prevarication, the Office of the Prosecutor said in a statement.
Three senators filed a lawsuit with the STF Monday to investigate whether Bolsonaro committed any crime by failing to report the alleged overbilling in the purchase of Covaxin vaccines in a deal which was eventually called off.
The bill, worth 45 million US dollars for three million doses, landed on March 18 on the desk of Luis Ricardo Miranda, head of medical imports of the Ministry of Health, who transmitted his doubts to his brother, the Bolsonarist Deputy Luis Miranda.
According to the Miranda brothers, Bolsonaro received them on March 20 at his residence in Brasilia and assured them that he would communicate those suspicions to the Federal Police, something that he apparently never did.
Among the three legislators who asked to take action on the STF is Randolfe Rodrigues, vice chairman of the Parliamentary Commission (CPI) investigating Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic.
Bolsonaro has constantly opposed social isolation measures, claiming their negative impact on the economy, and encouraged crowds not to wear masks. The President has also raised doubts about the efficacy of vaccines and promoted the use drugs not approved by mainstream scientists.
De Medeiros initially requested that the STF reject the demand to investigate Bolsonaro, arguing that the CPI was already dealing with that. But Weber denied that request, claiming that the Prosecutor's Office could not remain in the role of a spectator of the actions of the Powers of the Republic.
If the Prosecutor's Office finds evidence against Bolsonaro, it will ask the STF to open a case against the president. But to do so, the STF must obtain the approval of two thirds of the Chamber of Deputies. In that case, Bolsonaro would be separated from his duties for six months, while his trial takes place, something which at this point seems quite unlikely.
Meanwhile, opposition politicians are pressinf House of Deputies Speaker Arthur Lira to open an impeachment process against Bolsonaro and will stage demonstrations Saturday to back that request.
Lira, a hardline Bolsonarist, is likely to hold off such a move for as long as he can.
Dozens of left-wing parties, unions and social organizations, as well as some former allies of Bolsonaro, delivered a document on Wednesday that brings together a hundred impeachment requests with more than 20 accusations.
Among the charges listed for this super request for impeachment are crimes against the exercise of political, individual and social rights and against compliance with decisionss judicial,” as well as having acted with “negligence” in the face of the pandemic.
The PGR is probing Bolsonaro for “mallfeasance,” which is a functional crime, that is, it can only be committed by someone who has a certain occupation, against the public administration. It occurs when a public official purposely delays, fails to do or does something improperly for their own benefit.
As per article 319 of the Brazilian Penal Code, it can entail a fine and three months to one year of imprisonment. There is no news of a governor or president convicted of this crime.
Following testimony from the Miranda brothers, Bolsonaro is believed to have chosen not to investigate the case brought before him.
But Bolsonaro has said: To the dismay of a few, the government is completing two and a half years without an accusation of corruption. It's no use inventing a vaccine, because we haven't received even a dose of that one that made the press agenda.
We have a commitment, if something is wrong we will find out, but thank God, so far, thanks to the quality of our ministers, we have not had an act of corruption in two and a half years,” he went on.
Following Weber's ruling, the police now have 90 days investigate the allegations.