Bolsonaro's gov, Corova virus, and political crisis


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Nov 16, 2011
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Brazil Rallies Against Bolsonaro as He Faces Court-Ordered Criminal Probe in 'CovaxinGate'
CIA director William Burns’ secret trip to Brasilia raises suspicion that the Biden administration may throw a lifeline to the beleaguered president for its geopolitical moves against China and Venezuela.
Brazil Rallies Against Bolsonaro as He Faces Court-Ordered Criminal Probe in 'CovaxinGate'

As the Covaxin scandal grows, anger is rising against the Brazilian president. Photo: Cuca da UNE

Sao Paulo: A day after a judge of the Supreme Federal Court ordered a criminal investigation against Jair Bolsonaro in the Covaxin scandal, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets in 350 cities and towns to protest against the government and demand that the president be impeached.
On Friday evening, Justice Rosa Weber ordered the prosecutor general’s office (PGR) to open an inquiry against Bolsonaro for the alleged crime of “prevarication” (malfeasance) in the case of the contract for 20 million doses of Bharat Biotech’s vaccine in a $300-million deal.
Though the Bolsonaro administration has been swamped with allegations of corruption in the deal, being called ‘CovaxinGate’, the opening of a criminal probe against him takes the seriousness of the case – and the threat to his government – to a higher level. The charge against Bolsonaro is that he was alerted about suspected irregularities in the contract but he did not inform the authorities concerned for action. Under Brazilian law, this is an impeachable offence for elected officials.
As already reported by The Wire, Justice Weber had asked the PGR on Tuesday to open a probe in the case, revealed by a health ministry official Ricardo Miranda and his brother Luis, a federal deputy, in their testimony at the parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI), but the prosecutor general asked for the senate probe to end before taking a decision. On Friday, the judge declined the request. “Since the allegation is backed by evidence, even if minimal, the criminal hypothesis must be put to the test, by the procedure legally conceived for this purpose,” said Justice Weber in her order.

File photo of Justice Rosa Weber of the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil. (Reuters)

The contract, which is under four different investigations, including two criminal probes, besides being the focus of the senate inquiry, was suspended by the Brazilian government on June 30. The scandal has been growing in size with every passing day, but an inquiry into the president, who is already under suspicion for taking personal interest in the deal for the most expensive vaccine – $ 15 a dose – will keep the country hooked to news in the coming days.

Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, May 11, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

One of the worst countries, along with the US and India, in tackling the pandemic, Brazil has been suffering the impact of the virus since February 2020. Its economy has been in a tailspin, with rising joblessness and hunger. All this while, Bolsonaro has refused to lead the country. On the contrary, he seems to have sabotaged the efforts to control the virus – by talking against mask mandates to promoting chloroquine treatment to delaying the purchase of vaccines. The only vaccine for which the president acted – with great urgency – was Covaxin of Bharat Biotech, which is now the target of a corruption probe and people’s anger.
It has already made people take to the streets to demand Bolsonaro’s impeachment.

Left and Right march together
After huge protests June 19, it was decided by unions and civil society groups to occupy the streets on July 24. But as CovaxinGate, playing 24×7 on television, created waves of anger, the protest was moved forward to Saturday (July 3). Called “3JForaBolsonaro” (3July Get out, Bolsonaro), it turned out to be one of biggest nationwide protests in the middle of the pandemic.
In a sign of how anger against Bolsonaro and the vaccine scandal is driving the country’s politics, the Saturday protest brought together leaders and supporters of parties from different political spectrums. On Avenida Paulista, the main avenue of the country’s financial capital, supporters of left-wing Workers Party (PT) and PSDB, the main right-wing party, jointly raised banners and posters demanding the president to leave office. Historical rivals, the two parties have clashed in the presidential elections for decades, with the leftist party defeating PSDB in four consecutive elections from 2002 to 2014.
Just a few months ago a joint protest by these two parties was unthinkable. “This means that the movement to remove Bolsonaro is growing,” said Gleisi Hoffmann, the national president of the Workers’ Party. “We’ve always been on this path and it’s great to see those who have joined now. We need everyone who wants democracy and get the country out of this crisis,” said Hoffmann, who is also a federal deputy.

In Rio de Janeiro, student unions organised a big rally against Bolsonaro with the slogan that reads “Life, bread, vaccine and education”. Photo: Cuca da UNE

For PSDB, which is a party of mostly middle- and high-income whites who are socially conservative, it was a big step to join rallies PT, workers unions, student organisation and civil society groups. The biggest cheerleader of former president Lula de Silva’s arrest in a corruption case and impeachment of his successor Dilma Rousseff in 2016, PSDB got decimated in the 2018 election as its supporter migrated in hordes to Bolsonaro. With Bolsonaro failing on all fronts, especially the economy and vaccination, a massive chunk of that group has now deserted Bolsonaro, though his far-right base of about 12% to 15% remains loyal to him. According to the Workers Party leader, the right-wing party is now in a correctional mode. “Analysing the mistakes they made and trying to recover the country’s path to democracy is good,” Hoffman said, speaking at the avenue.

Protests in Brazil are generally colourful and noisy. There was something sombre about Saturday protests as if a wave of anger was covered with a layer of sadness. With 5,22,000 Brazilians killed by the virus and new deaths still touching the figure of 2,000 every day, the country seems to be sitting on a tinder. “I voted for Bolsonaro in the last election with the hope that he will control corruption and make our lives better. He is done the exact opposite. We are worse off than before. Everybody has lost someone. Now, we know the pandemic was used by a few to make money through a corrupt deal,” said Alex Gomes, 38, who works as a manager in a software firm. “I never went to a protest in my life. I went today because the country is sinking and this government is responsible for the disaster.”
In cities across the country, people wearing red, black and the national colours of yellow and green carried placards and banners with slogans which had words like “genocide”, “corrupt” and “Get out” written on them along the name of the Brazilian president. For the majority of the population, suffering the pandemic and its effects, Bolsonaro is to be blamed personally. In Brasilia, a group of protesters installed a 10-metre-tall inflatable doll with the face of Bolsonaro, wearing a toothbrush moustache, and blood dripping from its claws; and many across the country carried a placard with the image of $ 1 dollar, with the slogan that read “The value of your life”, a reference to allegations that officials asked for the cut of $1 per dose in the purchase of AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dining with the CIA
In recent days many allegations have been made in other vaccine deals. But the parliamentary committee hearings in the coming week, starting Tuesday, are all set to focus on the Covaxin deal as some of the principal characters in the scandal appear before the senate. With a probe ordered against the president in the Covaxin contract by a supreme court judge, the investigation into the multi-million deal has now assumed a sense of urgency. The prosecutor general’s office has asked for 90 days to investigate the charge against Bolsonaro. After their investigation, the PGR may file a complaint against Bolsonaro with the supreme court. If the complaint is made, the court will need an approval from two-thirds of the Chamber of Deputies to make the president a defendant in the case. He would then be removed from office.
Given his grip over the government at the moment, it is a matter of speculation how this probe will proceed. A lot also depends on the findings of the senate committee, which is going after the Indian deal with full force. A “super petition”, with 120 charges for the impeachment of Bolsonaro, was submitted to the Speaker of chamber this week by a group of parties from the left and right. The Speaker is sitting over the plea. As the protests swell on the streets and the CPI builds pressure, the Speaker may initiate an action he has declined to take so far.
No doubt, Bolsonaro is under siege. But he can’t be written off yet. There is a lot of guessing game – and fear – about how he will react if shoved further into the corner. Having already declared that only “God can remove me from power”, the Brazilian leader is unlikely to quit and walk away. In recent weeks, there have been reports that suggest that the president is mobilising his supporters in the armed forces and military police (heavily-armed units of state police). Bolsonaro has threatened to use the military to keep power a number of times. As the vaccine scandal grows, there is also a growing concern that Bolsonaro may stage something dramatic if he faces impeachment.

In the city of Sao Paulo, the biggest parties of the left and right came together to demand removal of Bolsonaro. Photo: Cuca da UNE

Those fears got amplified this week as it was revealed that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, made a quiet trip to Brasilia on Thursday. Landing here from Colombia, Burns met Bolsonaro and had dinner with his chief of staff and the cabinet chief of security – both former army generals. The meeting was not confirmed by the government but Bolsonaro told a group of supporters that he met Burns and hinted that their discussion centred around China and Venezuela.
“Some countries depend on us, on what we produce here. And these countries think 50 and 100 years ahead. And here, unfortunately, at best, we think a few weeks or a few days later,” Bolsonaro said, in a clear reference to China and its dependent on commodities from Brazil. “I am not going to say what was discussed with by him [Burns], but we analysed how things are in South America. I don’t want to talk about Venezuela. Look at Argentina. Where is Chile going? What happened in Bolivia? The Evo Morales gang returned to power. And the president who was there during the interim term [Jeanine Anez] is in prison. Are you feeling any similarity with Brazil?” said Bolsonaro in a chat with his supporters which was recorded and shared on social media.

Observers believe Bolsonaro spoke about the meeting to show to his supporters that he was not isolated internationally and he had the support of Americans. The Americans, say experts, may use a weakened leader to play their game in the region. In an article, titled “The CIA, Brazil and The New Cold War with China” in Brasil Wire, an independent media outlet here, political commentator Nathalia Urban wrote that imperative behind the CIA director “classified trip to Brazil appears to be part of an effort to contain and prevent ascendence of South American governments allied with, or sympathetic” to China.

Across the country, protesters carried inflated dolls or cutouts of Bolsonaro with slogans that accuse him of genocide. Photo: Cuca da UNE

“It started with Trump and the tariff wars and this is intensifying in the political-diplomatic sphere under Biden, through the attempt to create a network of alliances around China to contain it and diplomatically isolate the country,” wrote Urban in a sharp analysis in which she also mentioned Lula’s recent statements about the importance of good relations with both China and Russia.
In recent months, the South American leftist parties are on the rise again. Already back in power in Argentina and Bolivia, the leftists almost won in Ecuador a few months ago. In Peru, their victory is certain; in Chile, they are leading the polls for elections; and in Brazil, if elections are held today, Lula will beat Bolsonaro in the first round itself.

It is not a scenario Washington would like to have in the region they have always seen and regarded as their backyard, but a lot depends on the mood on the Brazilian streets which is getting angry with a growing scandal.


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Nov 16, 2011
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Watch: What's the Controversy Over Brazil's Covaxin Deal With Bharat Biotech?
A Brazilian health ministry official alleged that he had informed President Bolsonaro about the pressure he was facing to buy Covaxin despite certain red flags such as high prices and pending regulatory approvals.
Watch: What's the Controversy Over Brazil's Covaxin Deal With Bharat Biotech?

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is in a bind over alleged irregularities in the Covaxin deal with Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. There are allegations that the government struck a speedy agreement with Bharat Biotech when offers from Pfizer at a lower price were ignored at the time. However, in response to the allegations, Bolsonaro has said Brazil never paid for or received any doses of Covaxin developed by the Indian company.
A Brazilian health ministry official, Luis Ricardo Miranda, who appeared before a parliamentary panel on Friday, June 25, said that he had informed the president about the internal pressure he was facing to buy Covaxin despite certain red flags that he had raised over purchasing a tranche of doses.
Amid a probe into the allegations, Brazil’s health minister on Thursday, June 30, announced that the country will suspend a $324 million contract to buy 20 million doses of Covaxin.
The Wire explains the matter in this video.


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Nov 16, 2011
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From CovaxinGate to Kumbh Test Fraud, Bharat Biotech's Dubai MoU Opens New Line of Probe
The Indian firm signed an MoU with its representative in Brazil and a company registered in UAE in November 2020 for its vaccine sale to Brazil. The second company is untraceable, raising suspicions about its owner and role in the deal.
From CovaxinGate to Kumbh Test Fraud, Bharat Biotech's Dubai MoU Opens New Line of Probe

The senate panel is looking at all documents related to Bharat Biotech's vaccine contract with Brazil with a magnifying glass. Photo: Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senado

Sao Paulo: Bharat Biotech’s contract with Brazil, already suspended and under several investigations, is facing new scrutiny with the revelations that the Hyderabad-based company had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its Brazilian representative and a Dubai firm, which is not traceable.
The MoU, obtained by Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, was sent by the Indian company’s Brazil representative, Precisa Medicamentos, to that country’s ministry of health as a proof of their partnership. But the presence of a third company and the date of the agreement has come to the notice of the parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) which is digging deeper into the scandal involving the planned supply of 20 million doses of Covaxin in a $300 million deal.
The tripartite MoU, signed on November 24, 2020, four days after the first meeting between Bharat Biotech’s top brass, their Brazilian representatives and health ministry officials, says that Envixia Pharmaceuticals LLC, a company registered in the United Arab Emirates, “would be responsible for providing support for all activities related to the registration and commercialization of Covaxin in Brazilian territory”.
While the role of Precisa Medicamentos in the deal is known – and being probed – this is the first time that the name Envixia, in a crucial role, has cropped up in this scandal.
Also read: Trouble for Bharat Biotech as Brazil Opens Two Criminal Probes into ‘CovaxinGate’

As per the document, released by Folha de Sao Paulo, the MoU proposes a future contract between three “parties”. While mails sent to Bharat Biotech and Precisa Medicamentos by The Wire remained unanswered, the executive director of the Brazilian firm, Emmanuela Medrades, confirmed to Folha de Sao Paulo that the Dubai company was “indeed” part of the document.

In the MoU, obtained and published by Folha de Sao Paulo, Envxia is a company registered in the International Free Zone Area.
“Envixia’s participation is normal. It was chosen by Bharat [Biotech] to explore the possibilities for the vaccine in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates,” said Medrades, who had travelled to India in January 2021 to sign a contract with Bharat Biotech and also put her name on the pact with the Brazilian government on February 25, 2021.
The clarification from Medrades says little and the executive will surely face a barrage of questions when she appears at the senate hearing on Tuesday (July 13). Precisa Medicamentos is the main target of senators who are looking at its documents with a magnifying glass. The appearance of the MoU, say sources in Brasilia, have opened two new lines of investigation. First, how did the representatives of Bharat Biotech attend an official meeting before signing an MoU with the company? And secondly, what exactly is the role of Envixia in the deal?
As an invoice for advance payment of $45 million sent by Madison Biotech, an offshore firm in Singapore which is not part of the Covaxin contract, has already made the probe follow the money, the appearance of another company, which can’t be located, has also triggered the curiosity of investigators.
The Mumbai connection
Envixia Pharmaceuticals LLC is so elusive that even Google can’t find it.
An internet search for the company’s name shows no results. But inquiries by The Wire suggest the company probably has links with a Mumbai-based firm, Invex Healthcare, whose owner is being investigated by the Uttarakhand Police in the fake COVID-19 tests scandal during the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
Also read: Fake COVID Tests at Kumbh: New CM Gave Job to ‘Unfit’ Company With BJP Ties
In the Memorandum of Understanding signed on November 24, 2020, Envixia Pharmaceuticals LLC is mentioned as a company in “International Free Zone Authority, Fujairah – UAE having its registered office at Kidnah, Block A, Plot 4, Fujairah – UAE.”
The publicly available records of the International Free Zone Authority (IFZA), located in Dubai Digital Park, show nothing for Envixia. The records of Dubai Financial Services Authority and National Economic Register, Ministry of Economy, United Arab Emirates, also show no results for this name. The Wire sent a mail to IFZA, asking if a company named Envixia was ever registered with the authority but got no response till the time of original publication.
On Monday, in an email response, the Dubai-based authority confirmed that “Envixia Pharmaceuticals FZCO is registered with IFZA and the license is active”. As FZCO stands for free zone company and the firm mentioned in the MoU is called “Envixia Pharmaceuticals LLC”, with LLC standing for limited liability company, The Wire wrote back to the free zone authority to confirm if companies can register as LLC with IFZA. The Wire also asked the Dubai authority to share the identity of the person in whose name the company Envixia Pharmaceuticals FZCO is registered and when it was done with how much capital? The authority was also asked to confirm if “Anudesh Goyal is registered as a general manager or director of this company”? To this query, IFZA sent a one-line reply: “Unfortunately, we will not be able to share any further information without the consent of the license holder.”
The details in the MoU also raise suspicions about Envixia’s precise status. At the bottom of the document, there are three signatures. On behalf of Bharat Biotech, it is signed by Dr V. Krishna Mohan whose title is written as whole-time director; the witness signature appears to read “Apoorv Kumar”, who, as per other documents seen by The Wire, is a top executive of the company. In the middle column of the MoU, sits the signature of Francisco Maximiano, the president of Precisa Medicamentos. In the third column, the MoU is “signed and delivered on behalf of Envixia Pharmaceuticals LLC” by Anudesh Goyal whose title is written as general manager. Unlike the other two columns, there is no date and company stamp below Goyal’s name. The witness signature in this column appears to be “A Gavande”.

In the MoU, below the signature of Anudesh Goyal, there is no date and stamp of the company, raising more doubts about its existence.
The Wire sent a set of questions on Friday morning to Bharat Biotech and Precisa Medicamentos, asking about their relationship with Envixia and Anudesh Goyal’s role in the supply of vaccines to Brazil, but got no response. An executive of the media wing of Bharat Biotech confirmed the receipt of questions and promised to “forward to (persons) concern (sic) and revert”, but there was no reply, as with the previous queries sent to the company by The Wire in the past few weeks.
It is hard to understand why a company of the size of Bharat Biotech would not respond to a few basic questions about their business partner, especially when their multi-million-dollar contract with Brazil faces a threat of cancellation. But, irrespective of the company’s silence, the names of Envixia and Anudesh Goyal are now on the radar of investigators in the burgeoning scandal.
The trail to Kumbh
For many pharmaceutical executives The Wire spoke to, the name Envixia doesn’t ring a bell. But Anudesh Goyal is not an unknown quantity in pharmaceutical circles in Mumbai and Dubai, where he might have participated at the “Arab Health” event held at Dubai World Trade Centre in January 2020. A Mumbai-based company, Invex Healthcare, which took part in this Dubai gig is headed by one Anudesh Goyal who has his office in Andheri. On its website, Invex Health describes itself as a “fully integrated pharmaceutical company with services extended from delivering pharmaceutical products to pharma mergers and acquisitions”.

On his LinkedIn profile, Anudesh Goyal is listed as the “Director of Invex Health Private Limited”, who is with the company full-time since December 2018, when it was founded. Of the four employees – present and former – on the company’s LinkedIn profile, one is Anagha Gavande who worked as a business development specialist from November 2019 to February 2021.
It is conceivable that two persons with the same names have similar professional profiles. But in this case, the similarities are too many. Not only are the two firms in the same sector (health) and have similar-sounding names – “Envixia” and “Invex” – they are also headed by persons of the same name – Anudesh Goyal.
And the witness signature below Goyal’s in the MoU appears to be “A Gavande”, similar to the name of Anagha Gavande who was employed with the Mumbai firm in November 2020, when the MoU was signed. The Wire sent an email to the address on the company’s website, asking about Goyal’s relationship with Envixia and Bharat Biotech. Two calls made from two different numbers on the mobile phone number of Invex were declined after a few rings. A copy of the mail sent to Anudesh Goyal, was also sent to a WhatsApp number of the company. The message was delivered and seen – indicated by blue ticks – but not replied for more than 24 hours.
Also read: Brazil Rallies Against Bolsonaro as He Faces Court-Ordered Criminal Probe in ‘CovaxinGate’
The Invex angle has given a completely new twist to the Covaxin story in Brazil. As already reported in the Indian media, a person named Anudesh Goyal has been interrogated by the Special Investigation Team of Uttarakhand Police for “mediating” a pact between two firms which are accused of serious irregularities in COVID-19 tests during the Kumbh Mela.
A senior official of Uttarakhand Police confirmed to The Wire that Anudesh Goyal, whose company is called Invex Health, has been questioned. “We can’t say if he runs a company called Envixia but he certainly has some business in Dubai,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Our focus is the irregularity committed in testing during the Kumbh Mela,” said the official, adding that they had no instructions to look into the Covaxin case.
But based on the MoU document and their own investigation, the Brazilian media published on Friday a couple of reports establishing a connection between Covaxingate in Brazil and the Kumbh Mela fraud in India. The common link in the two cases, as per the reports, being Anudesh Goyal, who hasn’t responded to messages despite repeated attempts by The Wire and Folha de Sao Paulo reporters.
The price of uncertainty
The vaccine controversy, which has made ordinary Brazilians go to the streets in huge numbers to demand President Jair Bolsonaro’s removal from power, has also tarnished the image of Bharat Biotech. The revelations that the company sent an invoice of $45 million into an offshore account without delivering a single dose has damaged its reputation and also made the Covaxin contract the focus of the senate probe. Now, with revelations about a fourth company – from Dubai – the MoU may get as much attention as the Singapore invoice and the contract between the Indian firm and its Brazilian representative.

In the city of Sao Paulo, the biggest parties of the left and right came together to demand removal of Bolsonaro. Photo: Cuca da UNE
With their pointed questioning of government officials, the senators leading the probe have been trying to sniff the money trail in CovaxinGate, which many of them have accused to be a “grand corruption scheme” to buy the most expensive vaccine. Bharat Biotech has claimed that it always offered to sell Covaxin for $15 to $20 to international buyers. But the senate probe is looking at an official document that says that the Indian firm had offered to sell its vaccine for $10 a dose to the Brazilian government with the possibility of dropping the price further.
In a meeting held on November 20, 2020, four days before the MoU was signed between the three companies, Bharat Biotech offered a price of $10, as per an official document sent by the ministry of health to the commission. First revealed by Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, the “Minutes of the Meeting” show that three local representatives of Bharat Biotech attended the meeting in person, while four of its executives had joined via a video link. On the Brazilian government side, Elcio Franco, then executive secretary of the ministry was present with six other officials.

A Minutes of the Meeting document from the ministry of health shows the Indian company made an offer of $10 per dose in its first meeting with the Brazilian government in November 2020. Photo: Screenshot of TV Senado
“The price of the vaccine is $10 per dose, which, due to the eventual purchase of a large amounts of doses, could be reduced and would be open to negotiation,” says the document, which lists the commercial and legal aspects of the negotiations.
The document, which was put on a large screen in the senate chamber on July 7, shows the names of Francisco Maximiano and Emmanuela Medrades attending the meeting on behalf of Precisa Medicamentos. For the Indian company, Dr Raches Ella, Sai Prasad, Venkat Hariharan and Apoorv Kumar had joined. While senators from the government side have claimed that the offer of $10 per dose was never made formally, the official document suggests otherwise. The first time that Bharat Biotech mentioned the price of $15 was on January 12, 2021, the day it signed a contract with its Brazilian representative and gave Brazil just three days to accept the offer. The agreement between Brazil and Bharat Biotech was signed for $300 million. The cost to Brazil would be $100 million less, say senators, if the initial offer had been maintained.
The question of how and why the cost of the vaccine went up was the focus of inquiry this week. On Wednesday, as the health ministry’s documents was on the screen in the senate, several senators accused that the extra $100 million in the deal was the amount to be swindled.
With the document still on display, Senator Renan Calheiros, the rapporteur of the commission, trained his guns directly at Bolsonaro. “The Covaxin vaccine was overpriced…This is perhaps the most important finding of the CPI. While rejecting the vaccines from Pfizer and others, the President asked the Prime Minister of India to send 20 million doses…The President not only knew about the swindler’s deal he participated in it…,” said Senator Calheiros in a rare outburst at the session broadcast live and watched by millions.

Senator Renan Calheiros, the CPI rapporteur, sees a definite scandal in the rise of Covaxin price from $10 to $15 and blames Bolsonaro for the scandal. Photo: Pedro França/Agência Senado
Bolsonaro’s image, already in tatters, has taken a severe beating with CovaxinGate. A poll released on Thursday showed that his rejection rate has crossed 51%, a new record.

It also showed that the vast majority of the country thinks the president is dishonest. Boxed in by the probe, Bolsonaro has been firing at the Congress and Election Commission, threatening to cancel the election scheduled for 2022. This has provoked a sharp rebuke from the senate chief, Supreme Court judges and political commentators. As the inquiry rolls on, more dirt is certain to come out. And with it will come political uncertainty in Brazil – with Covaxin sitting at the centre of it.


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Nov 16, 2011
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NEWSA Brief History of 'Rachadinha' - The Corruption Scheme Haunting Brazil's Bolsonaro

Newly leaked audio recordings have sparked a political firestorm in Brazil - linking President Jair Bolsonaro to an extortion scheme where political staffers had to give up part of their salaries in order to keep their jobs, a practice known as "rachadinha." InSight Crime looks back at how these allegations have grown over the years.
It began on December 6, 2018. It had been just 91 days since Jair Bolsonaro, a polarizing veteran of Rio de Janeiro’s brutal political wars, had been stabbed in the belly during a presidential campaign stop.

The stab wound was deep, reaching his liver, lung and intestines. Despite not returning to the campaign trail, he won both rounds of the presidential election.

By December, with polls showing he was admired and feared in seemingly equal measure, Bolsonaro was preparing for his upcoming inauguration. In a speech to Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral – TSE), he solemnly declared that “the building of a fairer and more developed nation requires a break with historical practices that have delayed our progress, no more corruption, no more violence, no more lies.”
But another wound was coming, not a physical one but a slow-acting wound that would regularly return to sap energy from Bolsonaro, his family and his closest allies.
Fabrício Queiroz, The Confidant
On December 6, 2018, Brazil’s Council for Financial Activities Control (Conselho de Controle de Atividades Financeiras - Coaf) released a damning report. It identified suspicious transactions worth 1.2 million reais (around $230,000) made by Fabrício José Carlos de Queiroz, the former driver of Bolsonaro’s eldest son, Flávio.

Many of these transactions were for sums under $10,000 reais (about $1,900), presumably as a way of trying to hide them. Another $24,000 reais (around $4,600) were paid to the account of the first lady in waiting, Michelle Bolsonaro.
Perhaps to their credit, the Bolsonaro clan did not immediately throw Queiroz under the bus. This man had been a long-term ally, a chauffeur, an adviser, a friend invited to barbecues and football games.
On December 7, 2018, Jair Bolsonaro admitted to the payments. In fact, he said Queiroz had paid his wife more than what Coaf had stated. The repayments had been for a total of $40,000 reais, made in 10 installments of $4,000 each to settle a personal debt.
But the story didn’t go away. And a word that has long plagued Brazilian politics entered the conversation.
What is Rachadinha?
Rachadinha. The concept is tricky. Foreign correspondents weren’t even sure how to translate it. It derives from rachar, to split or to crack.

It refers to a scheme somewhere between extortion and bribery, which can be carried out in a number of ways. One common tactic sees lower-ranked government officials or political staffers forced to split their public salary, keeping one part for themselves and giving another to their superiors in order to keep their jobs. Another way is to simply create fake political jobs, with those appointed to these positions never doing any work. Their salary is then again divided between themselves and higher-ups.

And it is seemingly omnipresent in Rio. The first Coaf report was not focused on Queiroz alone, it named around 20 other political staff in the Rio de Janeiro legislature at the time as being involved with rachadinha.

The Queiroz scheme appeared to be of the first variety. The amounts involved quickly increased. By mid-December 2018, an investigation by Brazil’s Attorney General’s Office found that Queiroz had been involved in up to $2.9 million in suspicious transactions, with small amounts deposited and withdrawn in cash. At least 483 deposits were linked to political staff or advisors linked to Flávio Bolsonaro, then a state senator in Rio de Janeiro.

Prosecutors stated that Flávio was receiving money in seemingly legal transactions after the funds were laundered through a chocolate shop he owned in western Rio.

The amounts directly linked to the presidential couple also continued to increase. In 2020, news magazine Crusoé reported that Michelle Bolsonaro had been receiving payments from Queiroz since 2011, reaching 89,000 reais (about $17,000). Queiroz was even paying school fees for Flávio’s daughters.

And the money allegedly paid to the entire Bolsonaro family was also adding up: 450,000 reais (some $86,000).

But still, the family of the president managed to dodge trouble. For a while, at least.

In August 2020, Queiroz was arrested at the home of Frederick Wassef, the attorney of Flávio Bolsonaro. But not for any charges connected to rachadinha. Instead, one of the most-watched men in Brazil had allegedly been continuing to commit crimes, working to slow down the investigation, in part by pressuring witnesses.
The mood in the Bolsonaro camp shifted.

Flávio went on the attack. The allegations against Queiroz were “another piece moved on the checkerboard to attack Bolsonaro,” he wrote on Twitter.

President Bolsonaro was also pugnacious. At a press conference a week after Queiroz’s arrest, a reporter from O Globo asked: “President, why did your wife Michelle receive 89,000 reais from Fabrício Queiroz?”

“I feel like covering your mouth in punches,” the president replied.

The case continued to evolve.
Bolsonaro Clan Under Investigation
By early 2021, Flávio Bolsonaro was under investigation for the rachadinha case, suspected of having helped to create 12 fake jobs in his office as state senator, leading to the embezzlement of 6.1 million reais (more than $1 million).
In a breathtaking act of political showmanship, Flávio sold the chocolate shop suspected of laundering the rachadinha money and bought a luxury mansion in the capital, Brasilia. The price of the mansion: 6 million reais.
The rachadinha case remained a wound in the side of the president, distracting him, putting his children and his wife in legal jeopardy, requiring his increasingly strident attention.
That is until July 5, 2021. In a three-part investigation, Brazilian news site, UOL published audio messages from President Bolsonaro’s former sister-in-law, which seem to indicate the president was an active part of a rachadinha scheme while he was a state deputy in Rio from 1991 to 2018. In these messages, Andrea Siqueira Valle can be heard describing how the president kicked out her brother, André, from a rachadinha scheme for not paying in enough money.
“André caused a lot of problems because he never returned the right amount of money that had to be returned, you understand? He had to pay in 6,000 reais but he paid in 2,000, 3,000 reais. It was a while like that until Jair caught him and said: enough. You can remove him because he never gives me the right money,” said Siqueira Valle.
This marks the first time President Bolsonaro has been directly linked to any rachadinha scheme.
The Bolsonaro family lawyer, the same one who was hiding Queiroz before his arrest, immediately denied the allegations. But the probe is picking up steam.
Senior parliamentarians want to call Siqueira Valle to testify in front of the Brazilian Senate. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have descended to the streets.
Yet, Bolsonaro may yet cling to power. His presidential impunity would have to be stripped for him to face an impeachment trial. Despite the president’s falling popularity, his political allies have not abandoned him and are likely to block any motion to impeach or strip him of immunity.
But should the rachadinha case be shelved until he leaves office in 2022, it would likely become one of a number of cases haunting the embattled president.


Senior Member
Nov 16, 2011
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India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce on Senate Radar as CovaxinGate Probe Goes Beyond Brazil
The parliamentary inquiry panel seeks details of Madison Biotech’s partners, which includes Dr Krishna Ella of Bharat Biotech, and its assets.
India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce on Senate Radar as CovaxinGate Probe Goes Beyond Brazil

Elson Gomes Junior, the honorary president of the chamber who also serves at India's honorary consul in Belo Horizonte, welcoming Bharat Biotech's co-founder Suchitra Ella on the advisory board of IBCC on March 8, 2021. Photo: Facebook/IBCC

Sao Paulo: Just before going on a two-week break, starting on Saturday, the Brazilian parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) investigating the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Brazilian government opened new lines of probe into the Covaxin contract. With the scandal around Bharat Biotech’s vaccine getting bigger, it was revealed this week that a transaction of one million Brazilian reals ($2,00,000) by the Indian firm’s representative to the India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce (IBCC) is on the radar of the commission, which is mainly focused on the contract for 20 million doses of Covaxin. The panel is looking at the transfer of money to the chamber just ahead of the signing of $300-million deal on February 25, 2021.
First reported by O Globo newspaper on Wednesday, the day Emanuela Medrades, the executive director of Precisa Medicamentos, the Indian firm’s representative in Brazil, appeared at the Senate, the revelation has raised many questions – especially because the two top office-bearers of the chamber also hold the posts of honorary consuls of India in two cities here. While Leonardo Ananda Gomes, the chamber’s president, is honorary consul of India in Rio de Janeiro, his father, Elson Gomes Junior, occupies the same position in Belo Horizonte in addition to being IBCC’s honorary president. The chamber also has Suchitra Ella, the joint managing director and co-founder of Bharat Biotech, on its board besides having Precisa Medicamentos as an associate.

The chamber, which describes itself as a “private non-profit organisation”, has denied any role in the deal between the Indian company and Brazilian government. “As a policy, the chamber refrains from commenting on its business relations with members or associate members. However, in this specific case, it may be mentioned that any transfers made from Precisa Medicamentos to IBCC correspond to its contributions to the institution as part of membership and to the sponsorship of events and initiatives of IBCC in 2021,” the chamber said in response to a question from The Wire.

While in its reply to The Wire, the chamber didn’t elaborate on the events sponsored by Precisa Medicamentos, in its response to O Globo, the private organisation had listed them as “Pharmexcil [Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India] business roundtables; Celebration of the International Day of Yoga; Special Mission for the BRICS 2021 (to be held) and others”, which are all, in fact, organised by India’s official missions in Brazil. India has an embassy in Brasilia and a consulate-general in Sao Paulo. The posts in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte are honorary.

The Asuncion connection

The commission, comprising 11 senators, began its work in April to examine the government’s “acts of omission and commission” during the pandemic. But since June, its focus has shifted to Covaxin, with many revelations about suspected irregularities in the contract, which has already been suspended. As reported by The Wire, the commission has been probing the money trail in addition to looking at the deal between the Indian company and its Brazilian representative. Though the chamber has connections with both the companies, it denies helping in the “initial contact” between them. “Precisa Medicamentos became an associate member of IBCC on December 28, 2020,” said the chamber in response to The Wire’s questions.
While representatives of Precisa Medicamentos had attended the Indian firm’s first meeting with the Brazilian government on November 20, 2020, and the two signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on November 24, 2020, the formal contract between the two firms was signed on January 12, 2021, days after the Brazilian company had joined the chamber as an associate. The money, under the CPI’s scanner, was transferred to IBCC in two instalments on February 17 and 23, and the contract signed two days later. On March 8, Suchitra Ella joined the chamber’s advisory council. “We are pleased to announce the new member of the India Advisory Board of the IBCC, Ms Suchitra Ella…Furthermore, Bharat Biotech is a partner of Precisa Medicamentos, a company associated with the India Brazil Chamber of Commerce,” IBCC had announced in March 2021.

At the senate, Emanuela Medrades, who had signed both the contracts – with Bharat Biotech and the Brazilian government – was pushed by several senators on the chamber’s role in the deal. “Can you explain why on the eve of signing of the contract there were deposits of one million reals into the account of India Brazil Chamber of Commerce?” asked Senator Humberto Costa, a leading member of the commission. “No, I don’t know why,” said Medrades, who has been part of the negotiations from the beginning and made several trips to India as a top-ranking executive of her firm.

Emanuela Medrades, the top executive of the company that represents Bharat Biotech in Brazil, was pushed by several senators to explain the payment of $2,00,000 to the India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce whose two top office-bearers are India’s honorary consuls in Brazil. Photo: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado

The Brazilian company has been in the eye of a storm since it was revealed in mid-June that a Singapore-based company called Madison Biotech had sent an invoice for $45 million in advance payment to the Brazilian ministry of health. Revealed by Ricardo Miranda, a whistleblower from the ministry, the scandal has bought all aspects of the contract – the price of vaccine, offshore account, multiple invoices, MoU partners and the Brazilian company’s own record – under the scanner.

The investigation into the scandal, called CovaxinGate here, is keeping millions of Brazilians hooked on to the senate hearings. On Friday, before going on recess, the CPI members gave a clear hint of intensifying their investigations into newly-opened fronts by looking at Bharat Biotech’s deals beyond Brazil as they held a virtual meeting with parliamentarians from Paraguay. The Indian vaccine’s deal with Brazil’s neighbour is under probe in that country too. Now, senators from both countries have created a channel for sharing information on the two deals which are linked to the Singapore firm.

Though the Paraguayan story has been known for a while, what triggered the CPI’s interest in that probe is a statement by Medrades at her testimony. When asked about the legality of the invoice from Madison Biotech, which is not part of the contract, the executive cited the example of Covaxin deal with Paraguay as a “normal procedure”. Two days later, Brazilian senators linked up with their counterparts in Asuncion to see the documents obtained by them. The contract has become a hot political issue in Paraguay as the Indian firm faces allegations of “breaching the contract” for two million doses. The focus of the probe in both the countries is the demand for payment into an offshore account in Singapore for a vaccine that is manufactured and exported from India.

Passing the buck

Emanuela Medrades made her appearance at the Senate on July 13. As she entered the chamber, she bumped her fists with CPI president Omar Aziz before taking a seat next to him. With a black mask pulled up to the edge of her lower eyelids, Medrades refused to answer even basic questions, using the right to “not self-incriminate” herself. After a tense day, during which the Supreme Court clarified that it was for the panel to decide which questions could be “self-incriminatory”, Medrades returned to the chamber only to complain that she was “exhausted”. Chastised by Senator Aziz as another senator demanded her arrest, Medrades promised to “answer all the questions” the next day.

On July 14, Medrades returned to the chamber in a new avatar, giving long answers to all questions. With the mask still raised up to the edge of her eyes, Medrades put up a spirited defence of Precisa Medicamentos as she aligned her position with that of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government. When pressed by senators on crucial issues like the vaccine price, offshore firm and invoices, Medrades passed the buck to Bharat Biotech, the company on whose behalf she signed the contract with the government.

In her testimony, the Brazilian executive defended her company while passing the explanation to most challenging questions to Bharat Biotech. Photo: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado

Precisa Medicamentos is no stranger to controversies. Earlier this year, the company was probed by the federal police in the purchase of 150,000 rapid test units. More recently, seven days before the signing of the Covaxin contract, the company’s name figured in another scandal in the purchase of condoms by the health ministry. The controversial firm has a majority-share holder called Global, which has been charged with receiving $4 million in advance from the ministry and not delivering the order for rare-disease medicines. A recent report by the Financial Activity Control Council has raised alarm over the company moving a volume of “resources incompatible with its equity” between February and June 2021. When Senator Humberto Costa asked the executive if Bharat Biotech was aware of the investigation into Precisa Medicamentos’s deal for rapid tests and other cases, Medrades replied that the Indian company knew their history. “We were always transparent (with them),” said Medrades in a matter-of-fact manner.

When CPI rapporteur Renan Calheiros tried to corner Medrades on the controversial MoU between Bharat Biotech, Precisa Medicamentos and a third company called Envixia Pharma LLC, the executive again passed the buck to the Indian company. “Envixia was brought by Bharat [Biotech]…we have no relationship with Envixia. It is Bharat [Biotech] who decide who will be their broker in each of their operations,” said Medrades, using the English word “broker” for Envixia in a testimony that was entirely in Portuguese. Again, on the matter of taxes, the executive diverted the question towards Hyderabad. In response to Senator Calheiros’s question on how Brazil would collect taxes from a company based in a tax haven, Medrades was again curt and clear: “The taxes will be paid at source – in India or Singapore.”

With a raging controversy around CovaxinGate, Bharat Biotech has become a household name in this country – albeit in an extremely negative sense. But, despite the row and suspension of its $300-million contract, the company has largely remained mum or issued statements which can be misleading at best. Now, after Medrades’s testimony, it seems the Indian company and its Brazilian representative may not even be on the same page on issues such as the price of Covaxin. The Indian company’s claims that it always proposed to sell its vaccine at $15 a dose, a position which has been challenged by news outlets including The Wire, with reports based on an official document that shows the company made an initial offer of $10 a dose. Dismissing the price in the document as a “mistake”, Medrades held Bharat Biotech responsible for the $15 price as she claimed that her company had “tried to bring the price below $10 in its negotiations” with the Indian firm.

The Brazilian health officials too have maintained the same position, that they tried to bring the vaccine price down, without bothering to explain why they accepted the value – the highest for any vaccine – for a serum that didn’t even have approval from the country’s health regulator.

The devil in the detail

CovaxinGate would not have become such a huge issue if the head of health ministry’s import wing, Ricardo Miranda, had not gone to the media – and then to Senate – with his story that he had informed Bolsonaro about the $45-million invoice and the “extreme pressure” put on him to approve it. In its defence, the government deployed top officials who claimed at a press conference that the first invoice was “fabricated” by Miranda and only its second and third versions were the right invoices sent by the Singapore firm.
If a few had doubts about Miranda’s story, they were dispelled in a brilliant takedown of the second and third invoices by Senator Simone Tebet during a hearing last week. Like a deft prosecutor, the senator put the two invoices on a screen inside the chamber as she pointed out the mistakes, counting no less than 30 – all marked with red arrows – in the invoices. While the first invoice, said the senator who is a lawyer by training, had “no mistakes as it came from Singapore where English is the official language”, the other invoices have many grammatical mistakes. “There are numerous errors, the most glaring of them is the spelling of PRICE, which is correct in the first invoice, but turns into PRINCE in the other two…also the preposition “to” has been dropped from “according the agreement” in the invoice. It seems someone has done a literal translation from Portuguese,” said Tebet, hinting that the two invoices were fabricated in Brazil. “Someone committed a fraud.”

Senator Simone Tebet points to the mistakes in the invoices which the top government officials had claimed to be authentic. Photo: Agência Senado

Senator Tebet’s performance, which went viral on social media, had put the government and Precisa Medicamentos in quite a tight spot. But at her testimony, Medrades rescued them both by stating that the invoices came directly from Bharat Biotech in India. “All the changes to the invoices were not done in Brazil, but were made by Bharat [Biotech],” said Medrades, once again passing the buck to the Indian firm. When Senator Eliziane Gama pointed out that the time of delivery of the invoice email shows that it was sent at 6:30 am from India and wondered “if people worked so early”, Medrades was again crisp in her reply: “Yes, they do work so early.”

In the third invoice, which was corrected in India as per Emanuela Medrades, “price” is spelled as “prince” and the preposition “to” has been dropped from “according the agreement”.

It may be a bit early to say if Precisa Medicamentos has thrown Bharat Biotech under the bus to save their own skin or if it is a calculated strategy to block uncomfortable questions as the Indian firm and its executives are quite far from the Brazilian panel’s reach. But that may change soon as the senators look determined to dig deeper. Already sitting on more than two tetra bytes of documents, the CPI asked the federal police, ministry of health, Internal Revenue Service and the Brazilian Army for more information and documents about the Covaxin deal on Friday. The senators have also asked Precisa Medicamentos to produce the contract between the company and Bharat Biotech and provide complete information about the partners, shareholders and beneficiaries of the assets of Madison Biotech, the firm located in Singapore. Founded by Dr Krishna Ella in February 2020, the Singapore offshore has among its directors Dr Raches Ella, a US citizen who led the Covaxin clinical trial, and Krishnamurthy Sekar, a Singapore citizen who presumably signed the first invoice but has not accepted or denied it till now.

With Madison Biotech under probe in Brazil and Paraguay and the investigators going after it structure in Singapore, Bharat Biotech definitely has more probing questions coming its way when the CPI resumes its sessions on August 3, with a testimony by Precisa Medicamentos’s owner Francisco Maximiano.


Regular Member
Sep 8, 2020
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Why NDTV isn't a reliable source?

As far as I know, NDTV is one of most viewed channels of India.
Sorry, its not. It may be popular within those who want to push a particular agenda within and outside India especially, but both NDTV and The Wire are NOT credible sources within India, hardly have any credence outside some commie/islamist echochambers.

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