Prosecutor Investigates Questionable Vaccine Purchases
(RightWing.org) – In late 2020 and early 2021, governments worldwide began purchasing doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen struck a multibillion-euro deal for the company’s mRNA vaccine. Now, questions about transparency and the negotiating process have led to an investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) into the purchase of the vaccine.
On Monday, October 10, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was supposed to appear in a hearing before the European Parliament’s special committee. Many expected he would face questions about the EU’s immunization purchases. Despite the CEOs of Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi addressing the committee, Bourla didn’t show up. Prosecutors have a lot of questions.
Prosecutors Looking Into Questionable Vaccine Purchases
The EPPO is an independent body that scrutinizes and prosecutes financial crimes. Among them are allegations of fraud, corruption, and money laundering. On Friday, the prosecutor’s office announced its investigation into the process (or lack thereof) the EU used to purchase the vaccine. It did not note who prosecutors were targeting or which contracts it was looking into. Still, other watchdog groups have reported alleged wrongdoing between Pfizer and von der Leyen.
In April 2021, the New York Times reported how von der Leyen and Bourla exchanged text messages ahead of the EU’s largest contract for the pharmaceutical company’s product. A leak said the deal would have been worth €35 billion if fulfilled.
In January, the EU’s ombudsman alleged the European Commission committed “maladministration” for failing to look for the text messages in accordance with a freedom of information filing. The commission said it doesn’t keep “short-lived, ephemeral documents.”
In September, the European Court of Auditors reported the commission refused to make available the details of von der Leyen’s talks with Pfizer.
Watchdogs Allege Improprieties
So, was the negotiation on the up-and-up? Auditors appeared to believe something was amiss; they stated the EU head didn’t follow the existing rulebook in negotiating the contract with Pfizer. Instead of joint negotiating teams being involved, they believed von der Leyen took it upon herself to acquire the terms of the deal.
Belgian Socialist Member of Parliament (MEP) Kathleen van Brempt stated the negotiation needed scrutiny, including the text messages, and uncovering why there wasn’t a paper trail. Brempt heads the European Parliament’s special committee on COVID-19.
1/3 The COVI committee will be following this case with great attention. Several aspects of the 3rd Pfizer contract deserve looking into, the text messages between the Commission President and the fact that there is no paper trail of the preliminary negotiations in first instance https://t.co/g7dlcGBmjv
— Kathleen Van Brempt (@kvanbrempt) October 14, 2022
EPPO said the investigation was due to “high public interest.” The announcement said prosecutors would not provide any other details at this stage.
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