Pivot in the Covaxin vaccine scandal, owner of Definite

The testimony of Francisco Maximiano, owner of Need Medicines, has not added any new information to Covid’s Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI), this Thursday (19).

So far, Maximiano has remained silent and has not answered any of the senators’ questions, since he is armed with a habeas corpus granted by Justice Rosa Weber, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), granting him the right to remain silent on matters that may incriminate him. Maximiano’s defense lawyer Ticiano Figueiredo told lawmakers that the decision on which questions and answers might incriminate him is up to the deponent himself.

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In some of the only questions that Maximiano decided to answer, he only stated that he has residency in Brasília, that he has traveled to India about four times and knows federal deputy Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), leader of the federal government in the Chamber and one of the pivots in the alleged corruption scheme of the Covaxin vaccine.

Francisco Emerson Maximiano, partner-owner of Need Medicines, testifies to the CPI of Covid / Pedro França/Agência Senado

Prior to this session, Maximian’s testimony had already been postponed four times. The first attempt was on June 23, but he was quarantined after returning from India. Afterwards, the testimony was rescheduled for July 1st, but it was postponed once again due to the habeas corpus granted by the STF the day before.

The third time, on July 14, his testimony was scheduled to take place on the same day as that of the company’s technical director, Emanuela Medrades, but there was no time. On the 4th of August, on the fourth attempt, Maximian was again in India.

Covaxin case

The company Needs Medicine, which represented in Brazil the Indian laboratory Bharat Biotech, which manufactures the Covaxin vaccine, would be involved in a corruption scheme in the negotiation of the immunizing agent with the Ministry of Health. The purchase involved 20 million doses, with a value of US$ 15 a dose, totaling R$ 1.6 billion. The contract was signed on February 25 and the first invoices, a document necessary to start importing, were issued the following month.

Suspicions of fraud came to light from inconsistencies found in the invoices by William Amorim Santana and Luis Ricardo Fernandes Miranda, both members of the Import Division of the Ministry of Health. At the CPI, the matter reached the senators with the testimony of Luis Ricardo and his brother, federal deputy Luis Miranda (DEM-DF).

::Covaxin case: what is known so far?::

At the time, the request for an advance payment of US$ 45 million to a third company, not foreseen in the contract, Madison Biotech, was questioned, as well as the reduction of the quantity of doses from four to three million.

on the government side

Upon becoming aware of inconsistencies in the invoice [nota fiscal com informações da compra], Luis Ricardo and his brother, Federal Deputy Luis Miranda (DEM-DF), met with the president on March 20 to alert him about an alleged fraud in the contract. Bolsonaro not only confirmed the meeting to the press but said he would have taken action. “I have meetings with 100 people a month, the most varied subjects possible. I can’t… Get anything for me and have to take action right away, okay? I took action in this case,” said the retired captain to Gaucho radio.

The president would have asked the then Minister of Health, General Eduardo Pazuello, to investigate the complaint. Two days later, however, Pazuello was dismissed, and the investigation was carried out by the then executive secretary of the Ministry of Health, Élcio Franco. According to senator Simone Tebet (MDB-MS), a day after taking over the investigation of the case, Franco would have completed the investigation without finding anything.

::Opposition denounces that Bolsonaro admitted to prevarication in case of corruption on Covaxin::

During the February 20 meeting between the Miranda and Bolsonaro brothers, the former captain allegedly attributed the scheme to the government leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Ricardo Barros (PP-PR). “If I mess with this, you know what the hell is going to happen. This must be something for ‘so-and-so'”, referring to the leader, Bolsonaro would have declared, according to deputy Luís Miranda.

Ricardo Barros

Barros is the author of an amendment made to Provisional Measure 1026, of January this year, which provides for exceptional conditions for the acquisition of vaccines. The MP allows the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) to grant extraordinary and temporary authorization for the import and distribution of any immunizing agents that have been authorized by a list of foreign health authorities. Barros’ amendment included the Indian regulatory agency, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO).

A month later, Barros criticized Anvisa in an interview with the newspaper O Globe. “I put an amendment on the 3rd, before this episode, to include the agency in India in the list of agencies, because it is necessary. There is a vaccine from India that we want to buy. And Anvisa, no. She thinks she’s an elite agency and only wants to talk to those she thinks are elite,” he said at the time.

In a document attached to the CPI report in production, to which the Folha de São Paulo had access, Francisco Maximiano told the Brazilian ambassador in New Delhi, India, André Aranha Corrêa do Lago, that a parliamentary amendment would facilitate the import process.

Barros and Maximiano knew each other before the negotiations surrounding Covaxin. The deputy is a defendant in an action of administrative improbity concerning a contract signed with the company Global Gestão de Saúde, in which Maximiano is a partner. The action determines an advance payment of R$ 20 million for medicines that never reached the Ministry of Health.

Edition: Vivian Virissimo

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