Former Romanian PM, health ministers targeted by investigation into COVID vaccine purchases
Anticorruption prosecutors asked the Senate and the Presidential Administration to lift the immunity and allow the investigation of former prime minister Florin Citu and former health ministers Vlad Voiculescu and Ioana Mihaila, in a case targeting the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic, Biziday.ro reported. The investigators say they contracted significantly more vaccine doses than necessary, causing damage of over EUR 1 billion to the state budget.
Liberal Florin Citu was prime minister for almost a year, from December 2020 to November 2021, and is currently a senator. Vlad Voiculescu was minister of health between December 2020 and April 2021, succeeded by Ioana Mihaila, who led the ministry until September 2021.
DNA said the investigation targets the acquisition of significantly more Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses in the period between January and May 2021, which was done in the absence of documents or assessments to justify the purchase.
More specifically, the prosecutors say two of those targeted by the criminal investigation, with help from the third, agreed to purchase an additional 52.8 million vaccine doses, although the 37.58 million doses bought before January 1, 2021, would have been enough to vaccinate more than 23 million people. The extra vaccines cost more than EUR 1 billion before VAT, which constitutes a loss to the state budget.
Reacting to the news, former PM Florin Citu said he always respected the law, regardless of the public functions and dignities held. "I fully trust the justice act, and I am convinced the ongoing procedures will uncover the truth," he wrote in a post on Facebook.
Liberal leader and Senate president Nicolae Ciuca said PNL would vote to lift Florin Citu's immunity. Moreover, he told local news channel Digi24 that the former PM would resign from the PNL senators' group and become an unaffiliated senator.
In his turn, former minister Vlad Voiculescu also denied any wrongdoing and said the COVID vaccination campaign was subordinated to the prime minister during the pandemic, not to the minister of health. "Decisions on vaccine procurement were made solely by the prime minister at the time. There are records of government meetings and documents that prove that the prime minister took these decisions," he said on social media.
"Although I did not agree with all the decisions made by those who coordinated the vaccination […] and it is well known that I was also kicked out of the government for this, it must be said that the number of doses purchased was a decision of opportunity in conditions of uncertainty regarding the availability of production, the evolution of the strains, the need for re-vaccination," Voiculescu added.
In the same post, he questioned the decision to open a criminal investigation into such an executive decision right before the electoral campaign.
Meanwhile, representatives of REPER told News.ro that its members are always available to clarify any situation related to their work in the public positions they have held. They also said that Ioana Mihaila is ready to suspend herself from political positions.
(Photo source: Inquam Photos/George Calin)