Covid corruption. Romanian medics detained over suspected fraud, ex-acquistion chief prosecuted over mask fraud

Inquam Photos / Virgil Simonescu

Twelve senior health professionals have been detained in Romania on suspicion of  taking bribes in exchange for awarding contracts to certain companies for medical supplies during the pandemic.

The anti-corruption unit said prosecutors searched the homes of managers and their offices at hospitals in the Brasov and Harghita areas, in the Transylvania region, in connection with fraudulent acquisitions.

Prosecutors said suspects received between 5,000 euros and 89,000 euros from medical companies in exchange for signing contracts to certain companies where they bought overpriced medical supplies for the state hospitals.

The unnamed suspects are being probed on suspicion of bribery, influence trafficking, abuse of office and obtaining illicit wealth.

Prosecutors said hospital managers and other decision makers signed off on contracts to buy overpriced medical supplies which weren’t necessary or were unfit for purpose.

Most of the suspects weren’t named except for a police officer who is being investigated on charges of abusing his position and giving privileged information to a businessman who was then awarded a contract by the Brasov Infectious Diseases Hospital.

The so-called ‘preferential contracts’ were paid with public money and the hospitals organized the proper acquisition procedure only to award contracts to certain companies.

„In exchange, the people in charge of hospitals or people who had influence over them received sums of money from the firms’ legal reps,” a press statement said.

It said the illicit activity cost the state about 1.67 million lei (344,000 euros), from 2019-2020.

In another Covid-19 corruption-related case, the anti-corruption agency said it was prosecuting the former head of the state medical acquisition company Unifarm on suspicion of  paying 3.5 million lei (741,000 euros) to an unauthorized company to buy face masks which never materialized.

Prosecutors said Adrian Ionel was being prosecuted on suspicion of abuse of office and unlawful gain.

They said he awarded a 4.5 million lei contract to a company on March 15 without respecting acquisition rules and other legal requirements to purchase three-ply masks.

The company had not be authorized to import or distribute masks.

The day after signing the contract, Mr Ionel signed off on an advance of 3.6 million lei. The company never supplied the masks or returned the money.


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