A Brazilian hacker told a congressional inquiry on Thursday that former President Jair Bolsonaro asked him to tamper with an electronic voting machine to show Brazil’s electoral system was vulnerable to fraud during last year’s presidential campaign.
Computer programmer Walter Delgatti told lawmakers he met in August with then-President Bolsonaro, who asked him to discuss the idea with experts at the defense ministry and offered to pardon him if he suffered legal consequences.
“He gave me a blank check to do what I wanted with the voting machines,” Delgatti told the inquiry. “The idea was to take a machine … so I could install my app there and show the population that it is possible to press the button for one vote and end up with another.”
Delgatti said his meeting with Bolsonaro was arranged by right-wing lawmaker Carla Zambelli, who paid him 40,000 reais ($8,000) for his services.
Delgatti said he never managed to hack a voting machine to show a manipulated result as Bolsonaro had requested.
The testimony comes after an electoral court declared Bolsonaro ineligible for public office until 2030 for abusing his presidential powers to undermine trust in Brazil’s electoral system. Bolsonaro’s allies fear he could eventually face criminal charges.
A person close to the Bolsonaro family told Reuters the public allegations from Delgatti were “devastating.” His right-wing Liberal Party, which grew to be the largest in Congress in October’s election, was in crisis mode, a spokesperson said.
Delgatti’s allegations were rejected by a spokesperson for Bolsonaro, his former press secretary Fabio Wajngarten, who said the hacker was lying.
“At no time was the use of computer experts considered in the president’s election campaign,” Wajngarten posted on the X social network, formerly known as Twitter.
Wajngarten also denied Delgatti’s account that Bolsonaro told him by telephone that they had wiretapped Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who was leading investigations into the president’s attacks on the Brazilian voting system.
“There has never, ever been a wiretap, or any illegal or non-republican acts against a political institution in Brazil by the president’s main entourage. Lies, lies, lies,” he said.
Zambelli’s lawyer Daniel Leon Bialski said she rejected any allegation of illegal conduct and accused Delgatti of distorting the facts.
Bolsonaro narrowly lost last year’s election to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and has never admitted his defeat, maintaining his argument since the campaign that the voting system was vulnerable to fraud.
Bolsonaro is facing several investigations into his attacks on the voting system and his suspected role in encouraging his supporters to storm government buildings a week after Lula took office.
The source close to the Bolsonaro family, who asked to remain anonymous to be able to speak freely, said Delgatti’s testimony made an arrest warrant against the former president more likely.
“The evidence provided by the hacker, if proven, can lead to an immediate arrest,” the source said.