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March 2, 2021
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General Prosecutor’s Office opens criminal probe, in rem, in diluted disinfectants case: The charges are hampering the combating of diseases, forging and substituting products

The General Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Wednesday that a criminal case has been opened following press revelations about diluted disinfectants used in Romanian hospitals for several years.

“Prosecutors have ordered the start of the criminal prosecution, in rem, for the crimes of hampering the combating of diseases, stipulated by Art.352 of the Criminal Code, and forging and substituting foodstuffs or other products, stipulated by Art.357, Par.2, of the Criminal Code. Judiciary police officers from the Romanian Police have been delegated to carry out criminal prosecution actions, including taking part in the taking of samples needed in order to carry out specific tests, in collaboration with the Health Ministry’s Audit Body,” reads a communiqué remitted to the press by the Public Ministry on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, Lower Chamber Speaker Valeriu Zgonea asked Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar to state whether a case file has been opened in this case.

At the same time, the Health Ministry has started to conduct a series of verifications in hospitals and will announce their results as soon as available.

The scandal started after journalist Catalin Tolontan published an investigation that showed that the disinfectants that Hexi Pharma supplied to hospitals have concentration levels lower than the ones on their labels. Subsequent analyses showed that the concentration level was up to 10 times lower.

 

Contracts with hundreds of hospitals

 

Likewise, Tolontan revealed on Wednesday on his blog that in 2012 anticorruption prosecutors opened a file concerning fixed tenders for antiseptic products, organised at the Elias, Sf. Ioan and Calarasi hospitals and at the Institute for the Protection of Mother and Child. “The prosecutor’s office opened a criminal investigation and then closed the case without hearings! In March 2016, the prosecutor’s office received another criminal complaint against Condrea, a complaint that has been gathering dust at DIICOT ever since,” Catalin Tolontan wrote on his blog.

The journalist claims that Hexi Pharma owner Dan Condrea had contracts with 350 hospitals at the time, was involved in several cross-border businesses, in offshore companies and in the refund of fictitious VAT payments, however he was not even summoned for hearings.

Likewise, complaints were filed against Condrea as early as 2008, but the case file ended up at DIICOT where nothing has been done since March this year.

In his turn, Adrian Moraru, deputy director of the Public Policies Institute (IPP), revealed that the hospital that Patriciu Achimas Cadariu led before he was appointed Health Minister allegedly had contracts with Hexi Pharma.

“The Cluj Oncology Hospital, led from 2012 to 2015 by current minister Achimas Cadariu, was working with Hexi Pharma disinfectants: 7 procurements of Hexi Pharma products were made. Instead of sending the audit body to his own hospital, the Cluj Oncology Institute, Cadariu is sending it to its most important competitor: the Bucharest Oncology Institute, in order to distract attention and destroy the competitors’ image,” Adrian Moraru wrote on Facebook.

Likewise, a RISE Project investigation explains the mechanism through which Dan Alexandru Condrea’s companies were buying hospital disinfectants from Germany, through Cypriot companies, and were then re-selling it in Romania, to Condrea’s companies, at a price ten times higher. According to RISE Project, Condrea “won twice: first he hiked the procurement price tenfold, then he diluted the disinfectant tenfold.” The documents obtained by RISE Project show that Evonik Industries and Basf, namely the German suppliers, sold disinfectants to a Cyprus-based offshore company (CPS Chemical & Pharmaceutical Solutions Ltd) controlled by Dan Alexandru Condrea.

In the case of chlorhexidine, Condrea was buying a litre for EUR 7.9, and was then re-selling it to his company for EUR 75-100. In the case of PVP-Iodine, Condrea was buying a litre for EUR 15-15.9 in Germany and the offshore company sold the same litre to the Romanian company for EUR 75-160, RISE Project journalists write.

Subsequently, the products were processed and transformed into diluted solutions sold to Romanian hospitals, according to the journalistic investigation published by journalist Catalin Tolontan.

 

Health Minister: “Our patients are safe at this moment”

 

In this context, Health Minister Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu (photo)  stated on Wednesday, at a press conference, that 3,526 tests were carried out, in the case of 95 percent of them the results being within limits.

“I want to point out that we are working in a legal framework in which any statement has to be backed by authorised evidence. I talked with the Prime Minister yesterday and I informed him about all aspects that have appeared in the meantime. (…) A criminal prosecution file has been opened at the Prosecutor’s Office. In this context, I will present you the data that can be presented. 3,526 tests have been carried out. Less than 5 percent of the antiseptic products tested were not within legal limits. The testing took place in health units’ laboratories, the public health directorates’ laboratories and private laboratories with which the health units are in contact,” the Health Minister said.

“Controls were carried out repeatedly this year. We do have questions where there are failed tests. Nevertheless, I believe our patients are safe at this moment,” Achimas Cadariu added.

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