Jun 17, 2021 News
– Ministry calls it an attempt to derail vaccination programme
Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, is asking the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government to explain the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines from a supplier in the UAE that has been linked to associates of questionable character.
In a press release, some 24 hours after he raised questions about government expenditure on the COVID-19 vaccine in the National Assembly, Harmon raised more questions about the deal.
On Monday, Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, told the National Assembly that the Government had been purchasing the Russian Sputnik V vaccines through a supplier in UAE at a price that is double the cost approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Sputnik V vaccines were purchased at US$24.00 per dose instead of US$10.00 as approved by WHO.
The Minister had explained to the House that the Government had no choice other than to engage the UAE supplier since there was a global scarcity of vaccines. According to Dr. Anthony, it was the Russians who suggested that Guyana buy through a supplier in the UAE.
In a press release on Tuesday, Harmon called on President, Irfaan Ali, to explain the purchase of the Sputnik V vaccines from Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family in the UAE.
According to the Opposition Leader, Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, who visited Guyana last year, has been linked to several questionable characters including Umar Farooq Zahoor, a Pakistani national who grew up in Norway and is wanted in that country as part of an investigation into a massive fraud.
Harmon also quoted Verdens Gang, a Norwegian news outlet, which reported that Sheik Al Maktoum has procured the Sputnik V vaccines via a Norwegian man by the name of Per Morten Hansen, who is indicted in Norway for money laundering and evading customs duties.
He noted, nonetheless, that when Dr. Anthony was asked whether the Sputnik V vaccines bought by Guyana were procured via Per Morten Hansen, he said, “I don’t know who is that.”
However, Harmon noted that the Verdens Gang investigative report documented how intermediaries have obtained the Sputnik V vaccine and are re-selling it at a premium.
“Through investigations in countries including Ghana, Russia, Pakistan, Guyana and Iraq, Verdens Gang has been able to document how the Russian vaccines have travelled via a Sheik in the Emirates and around the world. Among those involved are at least one individual with a long and troubled past with the law in Norway,” the report continued.
Harmon noted that Verdens Gang later identifies “the middleman who supplies Sputnik V vaccines from the Russians to Sheik Al Maktoum as Per Morten Hansen.”
As such, he charged that the Irfaan Ali-led administration did not do any background checks and so this has resulted in “executive recklessness” raising several issues, such as the possibility of Government being “knowingly engaged” in an international vaccine racket and price-gouging transaction that has resulted in “the overpaying of over G$600 million of Guyanese taxpayers’ money for the Sputnik V vaccines.”
The PPP/C, according to Harmon, had engaged with “Sheik Al Maktoum and his dubious associates, to close deals and hand over billions of dollars of Guyanese taxpayers’ monies.”
But in an invited comment, Dr. Anthony explained that the Government has been in contact with the offices of Sheik Maktoum. He noted that the Government had entered into a contract with the supplier who has been making deliveries based on the agreement made.
In terms of the pricing, the Health Minister maintained that at the time when the contract was signed, there was a global shortage of vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and limited supplies through the COVAX facility.
In a statement released last evening via the Ministry of Health, Dr. Anthony further countered the claims by Harmon. He noted that at no time did Guyana procure vaccines from any illegal entity or anyone in trouble with legal authorities anywhere.
“At no time did Guyana access vaccines secretly from anyone. In every instance, the Ministry of Health has followed the established process and has established legally binding contracts to ensure the timely delivery of these vaccines,” the statement noted.
Further, the statement added that Guyana has not procured vaccines from any illegal source. “As far as Mr. Harmon’s claim that the Government procured vaccines from an international fraudster, this is blatantly false. We are not aware of, have not seen any evidence, and none was presented by the Leader of the Opposition, or any other person or entities, that show Sheik Al Maktoum is an international fraudster or is wanted in any country,” the statement said.
As such, the Ministry of Health rejected the Leader of the Opposition’s claims as a mischievous and malicious attempt to derail the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Guyana.
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