The then Health Minister, Eduardo Pazuello, promised a group of intermediaries to buy 30 million doses of the Chinese Coronavac vaccine that were formally offered to the Jair Bolsonaro government for almost triple the price negotiated by the Butantan Institute.
The negotiation, at a meeting at the ministry off the official agenda, on March 11, had its outcome recorded in a video in which the active-duty general in the Army appears alongside four people who would represent World Brands, a company from Santa Catarina. Catarina who deals with foreign trade.
The recording, obtained by leaf and already in possession of the CPI of Covid in the Senate, it was held in the office of the then executive secretary of the portfolio, retired colonel Elcio Franco. In it, Pazuello tells what the summary of the meeting would be.
“We have already left here today with the memorandum of understanding already signed and with the commitment of the ministry to conclude, as soon as possible, the contract so that we can receive these 30 million doses in the shortest possible time to serve our population”, says the then minister, according to whom the purchase would be made directly with the Chinese government.
The World Brands proposal, also obtained by leaf, offers the 30 million doses of vaccine from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac for the unit price of US$ 28 per dose, with a deposit of half the total purchase price (R$ 4.65 billion, considering the dollar exchange rate at the time) up to two days after signing the contract.
On that day, March 11, the Brazilian government had already announced, two months earlier, the acquisition of 100 million doses of Coronavac via the Butatan Institute, for the price of US$ 10 per dose. Pazuello’s resignation would be made public by Bolsonaro four days later, on 15 March.
In addition to the discrepancy in price, the off-schedule meeting contradicts what Pazuello said in a statement to the CPI, on May 19th. The general told senators that he did not lead negotiations with Pfizer on the grounds that a minister should never receive or negotiate with a company.
“For the simple reason that I am the top manager, I am the ‘decision maker’, I cannot negotiate with the company. Who negotiates with the company is the administrative level, not the minister. If the minister… should never receive a company, you [senador Renan Calheiros] should know that,” Pazuello told the CPI.
In the video, a businessman who Pazuello identifies as “John” thanks the minister for the opportunity to receive him and says that other partnerships can be made “with so much open door that the minister proposed to us”.
The businessmen’s meeting was scheduled with the office of Elcio Franco, who received the group. According to former advisors to the folder, Pazuello was called into the room, listened to the report of the meeting and made the video.
Three people who followed the meeting said the video was recorded even before Pazuello knew the price of the vaccine.
According to a former assistant to the minister, the idea was to advertise the progress in a negotiation on social networks, at a time when the government was under pressure to expand the vaccine portfolio.
After recording, according to the reports collected by leaf, part of the minister’s team asked the businessmen not to share the video, which was made through the businessperson’s cell phone identified as “John”.
One of Pazuello’s aides reportedly warned the general after the meeting that the proposal was unusual, above the price, and the company might not be the official representative of the vaccine manufacturer.
If the deal went ahead, the doses would be the most expensive contracted by the ministry, a position currently occupied by the Indian Covaxin (US$ 15), which has its contract suspended due to suspicion of irregularities.
The company’s proposal is dated March 10, the day before the meeting with Pazuello. According to two assistants of the former minister and one of the businessmen who followed the conversation, the offer only reached the portfolio on the day of the meeting.
Although Pazuello said in the video that he had signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase, the negotiation did not prosper.
The Bolsonaro government resisted negotiating Coronavac. In October 2020, the president forced Pazuello to back down from a promise to buy the vaccine. “One orders and the other obeys”, justified the general in a video alongside the president.
The president even said that he would not buy the vaccine even when Anvisa gave approval for its use. “From China we won’t buy, it’s my decision. I don’t believe she [vacina] transmit sufficient security to the population by its origin,” the president declared on 22 October.
For Covid’s CPI, the government disdained direct negotiations with manufacturers such as Pfizer, while opening the doors to representatives of intermediaries who acted without the approval of the laboratories.
In one of the negotiations of this line with the greatest repercussion, military police corporal Luiz Paulo Dominghetti had three meetings with the Ministry of Health, and claims that he even received a request for a bribe of US$ 1 per dose to unlock a purchase of 400 million units of AstraZeneca.
Wanted, Pazuello, Franco and the Casa Civil —where the military now dispatches as advisers to Bolsonaro— did not comment on the March 11 meeting.
In a statement, Sinovac said that ONLY (in bold letters, in the answer in English) the Butantan Institute can offer Coronavac in Brazil.
According to Federal Revenue records, World Brands has a share capital of R$ 5 million and operates in the trade of various products, such as materials for medical use, in addition to maritime agency and customs broker activities.
The businessman identified as “John” told the leaf that there was a share of Coronavac that could be offered to Brazil.
He said he was a “partner” with World Brands, but ended the phone conversation with the reporter when he was asked about details of the negotiations and names of those present at the meeting, such as his own.
A leaf asked the Ministry of Health who participated in the meeting, with whom it was scheduled and the reasons why the meeting did not appear on the official agenda of former members of the Ministry’s summit.
He also asked which route was given to the proposal. The folder did not respond to any of the questions and said only that the public calendars of the dismissed authorities can be accessed through an official link.
After the publication of the report, the ministry said, in a statement, that it is not aware of any memorandum of understanding made by the Pazuello administration. “The current management of the folder is not aware of a memorandum of understanding for the acquisition of doses from Coronavac.”
The current executive secretary of the folder, Rodrigo Cruz, said he was not aware of the negotiation mentioned in the video. “I learned from the press.”
World Brands just said: “Proposal done, no effective response received, business not done.” The company declined to inform the name of the meeting participants and whether they actually had Sinovac’s approval for the sale to the federal government.