RIO DE JANEIRO, June 25 (Reuters) – A Brazilian congressman who has denounced alleged wrongdoing in a 1.6 billion reais ($323 million) COVID-19 vaccine contract signed by Brazil’s authorities arrived at a Senate fee inquiry on Friday sporting a bullet-proof vest for security.
Congressman Luis Miranda and his brother Luis Ricardo Miranda, the whistleblower on the Well being Ministry who raised suspicions in regards to the vaccine cope with India’s Bharat Biotech, are the important thing witnesses in a listening to underway on Friday.
The parliamentary inquiry is wanting into the federal government’s dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed greater than half one million individuals in Brazil, and accusations that it intentionally delayed securing vaccines to combat COVID-19.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who’s beneath rising stress to elucidate the cope with Bharat, mentioned on Friday there have been no irregularities within the contract for the Indian drugmaker’s Covaxin shot.
“There’s nothing mistaken with the Covaxin contract, there is no such thing as a overpricing,” he mentioned at a information convention within the inside of São Paulo.
The president, who was elected on an anti-graft platform, added that his enemies have been attempting to stain his authorities with unfounded accusations of corruption.
“I’m incorruptible,” he mentioned.
The allegations relating to the Bharat contract threaten to wreck Bolsonaro’s pledge of zero tolerance for corruption in his authorities.
The coordinator of the Senate inquiry has referred to as for defense for the Miranda brothers, and likewise for the homeowners of the Brazilian firm Precisa Medicamentos, which acts as an middleman for Bharat.
The contract is being probed by federal prosecutors and lawmakers to see why the federal government struck a speedy settlement with Bharat after COVID-19 vaccine affords from Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) at a lower cost have been ignored.
Luis Ricardo Miranda and his lawmaker brother met with Bolsonaro in March and mentioned they warned him of the suspicious contract, however that nothing was executed to analyze the deal.
Legislator Luis Miranda mentioned that Bolsonaro acknowledged that the state of affairs was severe and advised them that one other congressman, Ricardo Barros, was concerned within the Bharat deal.
Barros, the federal government’s whip within the legislature’s decrease home, responded on Twitter that he had no involvement within the Bharat deal and that additional investigation would present the president didn’t cite his title within the assembly.
Bolsonaro’s press workplace didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark about implicating Barros.
Luis Ricardo Miranda, head of imports on the Well being Ministry, advised senators he refused to approve an import license as a result of an bill for a primary cargo requested for up-front fee and was despatched by an organization not talked about within the contract, Singapore-based Madison Biotech.
Miranda has advised prosecutors he was pressured by Alex Lial Marinho, an aide to one among Bolsonaro’s closest allies, former Well being Minister Eduardo Pazuello. Miranda’s account was backed up by his congressman brother.
The accusations elevate awkward questions for Bolsonaro and Pazuello, who’s going through felony and civil investigations into his dealing with of the pandemic whereas minister.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro mentioned Brazil by no means paid for or obtained any doses of the Covaxin shot, and pledged to take motion if any corruption was found in his authorities.
In an announcement issued in India, Bharat Biotech mentioned, “We strongly refute and deny any sort of allegation or implication of any wrongdoing in any way with respect to the provision of COVAXIN.” It mentioned Madison Biotech was its international gross sales and advertising and marketing unit.
($1 = 4.9477 reais)
Reporting by Pedro Fonseca
Writing Gabriel Stargardter
Modifying by Brad Haynes and Invoice Berkrot
Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.