Covid CPI live: partner at Belcher Farmacêutica gives testimony

The Pandemic CPI now hears from businessman Emanuel Catori, a partner at Belcher Farmacêutica. The deponent appears in the Federal Senate this Tuesday (24) in the condition of summoned and should explain more details about purchase intentions involving the immunizing agent Convidecia, from the Chinese laboratory CanSino.

CanSino’s vaccine became a target of the CPI due to the negotiation process with the federal government similar to the case of the Indian vaccine Covaxin: there was an intermediary company and a higher price for a dose, of US$17 – until then the highest among all vaccines purchased by the Ministry of Health.

In the process, Belcher was the intermediary company responsible for the negotiations in Brazil. However, on June 17, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) received a statement from CanSino informing about the company’s disqualification for the immunizing agent.

Belcher was also one of the companies mentioned in the False Negative Operation, of the Federal District’s Public Ministry, which found the overpricing of the products, mainly Covid-19 tests, acquired by the Health Department of the Federal District (SES-DF).

Emanuel Catori will also be questioned by the senators for his relations with people close to the federal government, such as Deputy Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), government leader in the Chamber, and businessmen Luciano Hang and Carlos Wizard.

Minister Gilmar Mendes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), granted Emanuel Catori the right to remain silent and not produce evidence against himself. The entrepreneur will be able to count on the help of his lawyer, with whom he will be able to converse in a private manner. He also cannot be subjected to imprisonment for exercising his right to defence.

  • ‘We didn’t have a political facilitator,’ says a partner at Belcher

Asked by CPI rapporteur Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL) about who would have been his “political facilitator” with the Ministry of Health, Belcher partner Emanuel Catori stated that this role did not exist.

This statement was contested by the senators due to a meeting, held on April 15, with the leader of the government in the Chamber Ricardo Barros (PP-PR) and with the minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga.

The meeting was an exclusive agenda of Barros com Queiroga, but it turned into a hearing on drugs against Covid-19. Having signed up to that date only the confidentiality agreement with CanSino, Catori stated that no vaccine deals were made at the time.

“There is no contradiction. When we sign a confidentiality agreement, we cannot speak on behalf of the vaccine until a contract is signed. At that meeting, we didn’t say a word about the vaccine,” he said.

“When Ricardo Barros was here he said he took you there to present a remedy. An antiviral. And the meeting was scheduled by him and he took all these people”, added senator Humberto Costa (PT-PE).

  • Emanuel Catori says Belcher did not sign a contract with the Ministry

Entrepreneur Emanuel Catori began his testimony by pointing out that the company Belcher Farmacêutica “was never a mere intermediary or facilitator” for CanSino, but rather the company’s representative in Brazil in the negotiation of the Convidecia vaccine. He also drew a timeline on the negotiation of doses and explained his relationship with other entrepreneurs, such as Luciano Hang and Carlos Wizard.

“Belcher has done a very serious, professional job, not an adventure. Belcher was the institutional and technical partner in Brazil, as provided for in Brazilian legislation,” said Catori. According to him, the company was the legal responsible and “necessary” representative of CanSino in Brazil between April 19th and June 10th.

The first contact with the Ministry of Health about the immunizing agent was made by email on May 12th, with the first face-to-face meeting held on May 19th. A day before, the company had already filed with the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) the request for emergency use of Convidecia, a single-dose vaccine.

On May 27, the company brokered the formulation of a letter of intent between Saúde and CanSino, which was actually issued on June 4th. The document was not of a contractual nature, pointed out Catori: “Belcher did not sign any contract and did not change any contractual draft. The bodies issued a non-binding letter of intent with conditions, such as the delivery of 60 million doses still in 2021”, he added.

However, on June 10, CanSino would have revoked “unilaterally” the representation credentials in Brazil granted to Belcher, which was communicated to Anvisa by the company on June 17th. According to Catori, there was a last meeting, on June 21, in which Belcher asked Anvisa for a longer period to explain its response. Nonetheless, Covidencia’s emergency use request was suspended by the agency on June 28 by the absence of a representation in the country.

The entrepreneur also explained himself about his contacts with Luciano Hang and Carlos Wizard. Catori stated that Belcher was invited, between February and March 2021, “to contribute technically to a group of businessmen who wanted to donate vaccines and supplies to the SUS and the National Immunization Program (PNI).” His relationship with the aforementioned businessmen would, according to his testimony, only be within the scope of the intention to make donations.

“I was invited to participate in a live with entrepreneurs Luciano Hang, Carlos Wizard and Alan Excel. In just over 30 minutes of conversation, I made two interventions and talked about the attempt to make possible an attempt to donate vaccines”, he declared.

THE vaccine that would be destined for donation would be Coronavac, explained. Catori stated that, at the time, he “had no knowledge” about the exclusivity clause involving the Butantan Institute, producer of the immunizing agent in Brazil. As a result, Belcher held a meeting on April 12 with the Chinese diplomatic corps, which recommended that those interested in making the donation seek Butantan. However, the follow-up of the steps to make the process viable did not happen.

“There was no interference from businessmen with the Ministry on the Convidecia vaccine. There is no relationship or commercial interest of the businessmen in representing Cansino”. declared.

In the end, the deponent said that he also had no binding relationship with congressman Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), leader of the government in the Chamber. “On April 15, I participated in a meeting of the Parliamentary Medicines Front chaired by Ricardo Barros, which did not deal with vaccines. It was not a dark agenda. There is no link between Belcher and the referred congressman”, he said.