Brazil top court gives nod for probe into Bolsonaro over vaccine deal

·1 min read
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro walks from Catholic church in Brasilia

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber late on Friday authorized an investigation of President Jair Bolsonaro by the top prosecutor's office, or PGR, for dereliction of duty in the process of procuring an Indian COVID-19 vaccine, according to a copy of the decision seen by Reuters.

The president has been implicated in allegations of irregularities surrounding a 1.6 billion reais ($316 million) contract signed in February for 20 million doses with a Brazilian intermediary for the vaccine's maker, Bharat Biotech.

A Brazilian Senate commission investigating the administration's handling of the pandemic has cited suspicions of overpricing and corruption related to the contract. After allegations of irregularities surfaced, the government suspended the contract.

Brazil has suffered the world's second highest number of COVID-19 deaths.

Brazilian federal prosecutors and the comptroller general's office, or CGU, are also separately investigating the alleged irregularities in the deal. The case allegedly involves the government's chief whip in the lower house of Congress, Ricardo Barros, according to lawmakers.

Bolsonaro and Barros denied any wrongdoing.

The investigation of the president by the PGR had to be formally authorized by the Supreme Court. In her decision, Justice Weber gave authorities 90 days for collection of evidence pertaining to the case.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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