Brazil’s police file charges against Jair Bolsonaro for COVID-19 vaccination card fraud during his presidency

By March 19, 2024

São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil’s Federal Police on this Tuesday filed charges against former President Jair Bolsonaro and 16 others for alleged involvement in a scheme to falsify vaccination cards against COVID-19, including those of Bolsonaro and his 12-year-old daughter while he was president. 

According to the police, the former president acted with “conscience and will” and asked former assistants to forge the cards in December 2022 so he could travel to the United States, which required a COVID-19 vaccination to enter the country at the time. 

Bolsonaro was accused by the police of two crimes: criminal association and entering false data into an information system. 

Under Brazilian law, when an investigation ends and the police believe there is sufficient evidence to indict a suspect, they file a charge with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which then would make a decision on whether to indict the suspect and bring the case to trial. 

In this case, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has yet to make a decision on whether or not they’ll take the case against Bolsonaro. 

Much of the evidence presented against Bolsonaro comes from testimony from Mauro Cid, the president’s former assistant who is now cooperating with police in various investigations against him, including an investigation into whether Bolsonaro met with military leaders to plan a coup after losing to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in October 2022 elections. 

Read more: Former Brazilian military leaders said Bolsonaro proposed military coup a month before January 8 attacks on Brazil’s government headquarters

According to investigators, Cid said he received a direct order from Bolsonaro to issue fake cards for him and his daughter.

The two falsified cards were allegedly printed at Palácio da Alvorada, the president’s official residence, and delivered by hand to Bolsonaro. According to investigators, the false data was entered directly into the Ministry of Health’s tracking system, with the help from allies in the city of Duque de Caxias, in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Mauro Cid told the police that Bolsonaro asked him to forge his vaccination card

“The evidence collected throughout the investigation converges in demonstrating that Jair Bolsonaro acted with conscience and will, determining that his aide [Mauro Cid] intermediated the insertion of false vaccination data against COVID-19 into the Ministry of Health systems for his benefit and his daughter,” said the police.

The investigation also found records of document printing on printers at Palácio da Alvorada. On the day Cid said he handed the cards to the former president, his presence at the location was confirmed by the palace’s internal records.

Read more: Brazil police search Bolsonaro’s home, allege his team falsified COVID-19 vaccination data

What happens now?

Under Brazilian law, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is solely responsible for bringing criminal charges in court. With the end of the investigation, the material collected by the police is sent to the prosecutors, who will carry out an analysis and decide whether or not to file a complaint against Bolsonaro and the other 16 people being investigated.

There is no deadline for analysis by prosecutors, nor are they obliged to follow the indictment and the opinion of the Federal Police. The Public Prosecutor’s Office may even file charges for crimes other than those included in the police investigation. 

If there is a complaint filed, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether Bolsonaro will become a defendant or whether the case will be dismissed. 

The Federal Police concluded the investigation into the scheme to falsify vaccination cards against Covid-19. Image courtesy of Agência Brasil

As the police presented a 231-page investigation, with many documents and testimonies, it is expected that the Public Prosecutor’s Office will file a complaint against Bolsonaro in court. If this happens, it will be the first criminal lawsuit against the former president.

To date, Bolsonaro has only been convicted in the Electoral Court, which earlier prevented him from running for office for eight years. But any lawsuit for criminal association and insertion of false data into an information system, for example, could carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Read more: Bolsonaro denies having told aid to falsify his COVID-19 vaccination card

On social media, one of Bolsonaro’s lawyers, Fabio Wajngarten, said that the Federal Police’s accusation is “absurd” and is “political persecution” against the former president. Wajngarten also said that he has not yet had access to the full police investigation.

“The whole world knows President Jair Bolsonaro’s personal opinion on the subject of vaccination, even though he has acquired more than 600 million doses. Furthermore, while serving as president, he was completely exempt from presenting any type of certificate on his trips,” said the lawyer.