- It is alleged that the acquisition of ventilators, worth millions in Para state, was done without bidding.
- “I am not a friend of the businessman and obviously did not know that the ventilators would not work,” Barbalho said on Twitter.
- Barbalho becomes the second governor in the country to be investigated for alleged misuse of funds meant for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Brazilian federal police raided the home of governor Helder Barbalho, and the government palace in the Amazon region, as part of an investigation for corruption. Another is set to face impeachment. The investigation probes the alleged fraud in the purchase of ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
It is alleged that the acquisition of ventilators, worth millions in Para state, was done without bidding, as allowed by emergency protocols, and the deployment of the equipment was also delayed. The police said they are looking into allegations of corruption and money laundering.
The police revealed that the search also targeted at least 23 addresses in six states and Brazil’s federal district, in Brasilia. During one of the searches, in the home of the former secretary of administrative management of state health department, Peter Cassol, the police found bundles of cash— something that prompted his immediate dismissal by the government.
According to the prosecutors, a judge who ordered for the search froze $5 million in the accounts of Barbalho and seven others. The governor is believed to have a close and personal relationship with the supplier of the ventilators. However, the governor denied having a personal relationship with the supplier.
“I am not a friend of the businessman and obviously did not know that the ventilators would not work,” Barbalho said on Twitter. “I am at ease and available for any clarification. I acted in time to avoid damage to the treasury, since the resources were returned to the state.”
The state is the fourth-hardest hit by coronavirus in Brazil, it has recorded more than 3,900 deaths.
Barbalho becomes the second governor in the country to be investigated for alleged misuse of funds meant for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the federal police raided the official and personal residences of the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Wilson Witzel, saying it was part of a COVID-19 corruption probe. The police added that they had search warrants to that effect, which were issued by the country’s second highest court.
It was alleged that the public funds, meant for the fight against coronavirus in the state, were embezzled. However, the Governor said that he was innocent, and accused President Jair Bolsonaro of interfering in the investigations. The governor is a former ally turned foe of the President. In recent days the two have butted heads over the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Critics have said that Bolsonaro sees Witzel as a political rival.
The two governors have been on the forefront in criticizing president Bolsonaro’s handling of the global pandemic. The President has also clashed with other governors and mayors over the lockdown measures, and their relationship has grown extremely bitter. He has continually called for the lockdown measures to be scrapped, so at to revive the country’s economy, despite the worrying situation.
Earlier in the month, Brazil removed months of data on COVID-19 from a government website. The president said that the cumulative data did not reflect the real picture. It was, however, restored after a few days.
Bolsonaro has widely been criticized for his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis in his country. He has done little to fight the virus, and has compared it to a “little flu.”