Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, under mounting pressure to explain his role in a vaccine deal with India’s Bharat biotech company, said on Friday that there were no irregularities in the contract for the Covaxin COVID-19 injection.
“There is nothing wrong with holding Covaxin, there is no overpricing,” he said at a press conference in the interior of Sao Paulo.
The president, who was elected on the basis of an anti-graft platform, added that his enemies are trying to smear his government with baseless accusations of corruption.
He said, “I am incorruptible.”
Bolsonaro’s comments came ahead of testimony in the Senate from two brothers who said they had personally informed the president of their concerns about the deal. The hearing, scheduled for 2 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), is the most anticipated event yet in a high-level Senate inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic that has killed half a million Brazilians.
Luis Ricardo Miranda, a health ministry official, said this week that he had told Bolsonaro about irregularities in the deal.
The contract is being investigated by federal prosecutors and lawmakers to find out why the government struck a quick deal with Bharat after ignoring offers for a lower-priced COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer.
Miranda told prosecutors he had come under pressure from Alex Leal Marinho, one of Bolsonaro’s closest allies, former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo. Miranda’s account was supported by his brother, Federal Congressman Luis Miranda.
The charges raise awkward questions for Bolsonaro and Pazuelo, who face criminal and civil investigations into his handling of the pandemic when he was a minister.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro said that Brazil had not paid for or received any doses of Cofaxine, and pledged to take action if any corruption was discovered in his government.