Investigate in Brazil a fraud in the purchase of health equipment to deal with COVID-19

Brazilian authorities are investigating possible frauds committed in various states of the country in the purchase of protective equipment and respirators to treat patients with coronavirus, police sources confirmed on Monday.

The authorities carried out joint operations in at least five states over the weekend to verify alleged crimes against the public administration in emergency purchasing processes, which exempts the holding of tenders, to attend to those infected with COVID-19.

Civilian Police officers carried out at least 35 search and search missions in the states of Santa Catarina (south), Mato Grosso, (center-west), Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, both in the southeast.

The operation was carried out against a group of smugglers accused of fraud in the sale of 200 respirators for the Government of Santa Catarina, where the state secretary of Health, Helton Zeferino, and that of the Civil House, Douglas Borba, asked for exoneration of their charges at the start of investigations after testifying before authorities.

The materials, which should have been delivered in the first days of April, were purchased for a value of 33 million reais (about 6 million dollars), paid in advance and "without the requirement of any guarantee" or "minimal precautions "regarding the verification of the suitability and capacity of the selling company, according to the Police.

They were "identified frauds in the process of acquiring respirators, through a sophisticated criminal plot" that included "corruption of public agents", ideological falsehood in official documents, creation of shell companies and money laundering, the institution stressed in a release.

In recent weeks, investigations of irregularities in the purchase of health equipment have multiplied in Brazil.

In Rio de Janeiro, former Undersecretary of Health Gabriell Neves and three other people were arrested last week, accused of obtaining illicit advantages in emergency contracts for the purchase of respirators.

In April, Neves was exonerated by Governor Wilson Witzel on suspicions of irregularities in closed contracts for the purchase without masks of respirators, respirators and rapid tests, whose combined values ​​amounted to 1 billion reais ($ 178 million).

Meanwhile, in Sao Paulo, the authorities are investigating the purchase of 3,000 respirators from China for the value of 560 million reais (100 million dollars) by the São Paulo Government, of which nearly 150 have been delivered so far.

According to the state government, the acquisition fulfilled the "legal requirements", although the governor, Joao Doria, announced the installation of an audit to accompany the COVID-19 combat-related purchases.

To date, Brazil has recorded 163,427 confirmed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 coronaviris, with 11,168 deaths.


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