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Brazil police to probe defense ministry link to 2022 election hacker -source

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's Federal Police will investigate a suspected plan by defense ministry officials to draw up a report during the 2022 election campaign to support then President Jair Bolsonaro's baseless allegations that electronic voting machines were vulnerable to fraud, a police source said on Tuesday.

The source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that investigators expect to call on retired General Paulo Sergio Nogueira, who was Bolsonaro's defense minister at the time, to testify.

Computer programmer Walter Delgatti told lawmakers last week that he was asked by Bolsonaro to tamper with a voting machine to show Brazil's electoral system was open to fraud.

Delgatti said he was paid to hack a voting machine but did not succeed in doing so. However, Bolsonaro asked him to discuss with defense ministry experts the preparation of a report that would endorse his attacks on the fairness of the voting system.

Bolsonaro's lawyers have denied he did anything wrong by meeting with the hacker.

It was not immediately possible to locate Nogueira or his representatives. The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court and a congressional committee are looking into the storming of government buildings by Bolsonaro supporters on Jan. 8 and into the involvement of the military in actions to undermine the legitimacy of last October's elections, which were won by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro narrowly lost to Lula and has never admitted his defeat, maintaining his baseless accusations about the voting system.

The embattled far-right leader is facing several investigations into his attacks on the electoral system and his suspected role in encouraging his supporters to storm government buildings a week after leftist Lula took office.

The Federal Police will call on Bolsonaro to testify on Aug. 31 for a fifth time since he left office, another police source with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters.

This time Bolsonaro will be called in about a message police turned up in which he purportedly asked businessmen to generate fake news messages on social media attacking the Supreme Court and the electoral system, the source said.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; editing by Grant McCool)