Corruption arises as states rush to buy equipment

corruption covid-19
Photo: Theskaman306/Shutterstock

The Rio de Janeiro Police Department arrested a businessman this morning for allegedly being part of a scheme to defraud a purchase of 1,000 ventilators for BRL 183.5 million. Maurício Fontoura, owner of the company Arc Fontoura, was the fifth person arrested in connection to the corruption scheme. That list includes former Deputy State Health Secretary Gabriell Neves, as well as his replacement, Gustavo Borges.

According to news website G1, the Rio de Janeiro state government had already paid BRL 33 million for the equipment, but there is no information on whether authorities actually received the ventilators. The state government says the purchases have already been canceled.

Beyond Rio de Janeiro

In Santa Catarina, local police are investigating possible fraud in the purchase of 200 ventilators for BRL 33 million — or 65 percent more than what the federal government paid for the equipment — which were supposed to be delivered in April but have not yet arrived. 

The police suspect the delay is because Veigamed, the company responsible for the purchase and is also under investigation in Rio de Janeiro, was trying to deliver models that were not suited for treating Covid-19. The difference in price of the equipment would result in profit margins of BRL 16 million for the company. Besides Veigamed, Governor Carlos Moises’ former Chief of Staff, Douglas Borba, and former Health Secretary Helton Zeferino are under investigation.