UPDATE. Unifarm director charged with demanding 760,000 euros bribe for sub-standard masks and hazmat suits contract during corona pandemic

Adrian Ionel. Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors on Tuesday put the director of the strategic state supplier of medicines and medical equipment under police monitoring on suspicion that he demanded a bribe in exchange for awarding a contract to a company to supply hospitals with hazmat suits and surgical masks.

The anti-corruption prosecutors’ office on Tuesday said Adrian Ionel, general manager of CN Unifarm S.A. illegally drew up a contract for protective equipment at a Bucharest restaurant, where the two agreed to demand an 18% cut of the contract for the intermediary and Ionel. The latter was due to receive 760,000 euros.

The contract for 250,000 hazmat suits and 3 million face masks, was signed in mid-March shortly after Romania declared a two-month state of emergency as the pandemic gripped Europe.

Health Minister Nelu Tataru said he would dismiss him if Unirfarm’s administration board didn’t replace him.

Prosecutors said that Ionel used his position to pressurize a Unifarm official into declaring that the contract had been legally drawn up with the company’s legal adviser. There was no immediate reaction from Ionel.

After the company failed to pay the intermediary the agreed sum, Ionel unilaterally canceled the contract. The company has not been named.

In the end, only 1 million masks and 26,000 hazmat suits were delivered. As a result, Unifarm suffered damages of 2.38 million lei.

Prosecutors have charged Ionel with official misconduct involving illicit gains, instigating an official to make a false statement and using his position to grant favors.

The statement said that the contract broke procurement rules including the way it was negotiated and agreed on without any procedure.

The masks were sub-standard and did not fit the requirements of the contract.

Unifarm, the strategic state supplier of medicine, vaccines, and medical equipment received 1.15 billion lei, about 259 million US dollars emergency funding from the state at the start of the virus outbreak to import masks, protection suits, ventilators and medicine to treat Covid-19.   

The money was for contracts and also to finance advances for companies importing healthcare equipment. Under the state of emergency , public tenders were been scrapped.

A health ministry audit in 2017 into Ionel’s activity as director of Unifarm revealed a number of irregularities and abuses from favoring certain firms to expired vaccines.

Libertatea reported that the report recommended he be removed from the post, but he was retained after the appointment of new health minister, Sorina Pintea She was briefly arrested in February on suspicion of taking a bribe in her current job as manager of a hospital in the northwest city of Baia Mare.


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