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Brazil police raid ex-President Bolsonaro's home in COVID vaccine card investigation

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro leaves Federal Police headquarters after giving testimony over the Jan. 8 attacks, in Brasilia, April 26.
Eraldo Peres
/
AP
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro leaves Federal Police headquarters after giving testimony over the Jan. 8 attacks, in Brasilia, April 26.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Federal police in Brazil raided the home of the former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday, as part of an investigation into possible falsification of COVID-19 vaccine cards.

The former president's mobile phone was seized.

The raid took place early Wednesday morning at the former president's home in Brazil's capital, Brasilia. The Federal Police say they served 16 search and seizure warrants, as well as six preventive arrest warrants in the capital and in Rio de Janeiro. The names of the targeted individuals were not disclosed.

Investigators say officials in Bolsonaro's inner circle created false vaccination certificates so that unvaccinated travelers, including the former president, his family members and assistants' relatives, could enter the U.S. and circumvent mandatory immunization requirements.

Bolsonaro, a vehement skeptic of COVID vaccines, confirmed to reporters that his home had been raided and said that he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. He denied any role in allegedly forging documents.

"I didn't take the vaccine, my personal decision," he told reporters.

Local media report that some of Bolsonaro's closest aides, including his personal security guard and secretary, were arrested. The Federal Police said they were investigating a number of potential public health offenses.

An official told journalists that Bolsonaro will be deposed at federal police headquarters later on Wednesday.

Responding to the raid, Valdemar Costa Neto, the leader of Bolsonaro's political party, wrote on Twitter that his party "trust[s] that all doubts the judiciary has will be clarified and it will be proven that Bolsonaro didn't do anything illegal."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.