(CNN)As Brazil's coronavirus cases surge by the tens of thousands each day, the country is contending with a parallel outbreak -- a flurry of corruption investigations into the alleged misuse of public money rapidly shelled out for Covid-19 emergency procurement.
As coronavirus cases explode in Brazil, so do investigations into alleged corruption
The investigations have reached all levels of government, including three state governors who have come under federal scrutiny in the past two months. Nearly 1,500 federal criminal judicial proceedings have also been opened into coronavirus-related cases, including investigations into misuse of federal funds, fraud, overpricing, and money laundering, according to a summary the federal prosecution office shared with CNN. The data provided to CNN does not specify what portion of the probes relate to corruption.
Meanwhile, cases of coronavirus are soaring across Brazil, and the healthcare system in several states has been stretched to its limit. Brazil is second only to the United States in the number of infections and deaths, and on Tuesday, bombastic president Jair Bolsonaro was also diagnosed with Covid-19.
On the state level, investigations into Covid-19 emergency purchases have been reported in at least 11 of Brazil's 26 states and the federal district, according to the Federal Police. At least seven high-ranking state health officials have been fired or resigned during the pandemic.
Two health officials in Rio de Janeiro were arrested in a probe known as "Operation Merchants of Chaos," into an alleged scheme to pilfer millions of dollars from a contract for ventilators that federal authorities say were never delivered.
In São Paulo, Brazil's most populous state and the epicenter of the country's coronavirus outbreak, a large purchase of imported ventilators is under investigation.
State prosecutors and an accountability court are reviewing a $100 million contract signed by the state government at the beginning of the pandemic for some 3,000 ventilators from China. Sao Paulo officials paid as much as $40,000 each for some ventilators, while the cheapest were bought for $20,000, according to the Brazilian Office of the Comptroller General, which notes that the average price per ventilator paid across Brazil is around $16,000.
The state government has said the purchases complied with legal requirements. But in June, the state canceled the contract after receiving only a small number of the ventilators. Attorneys for the São Paulo state government have filed a lawsuit against the middleman company seeking a refund and fines for the unfulfilled delivery. It was a highly publicized debacle for São Paulo's government, which is listed in the middle of a ranking published by Transparency International Brazil of states' transparency in Covid-19 emergency contracting.