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March 16, 2023

Head of the National Centralised Procurement Office indicted over COVID masks deal

President of the National Centralised Procurement Office (ONAC) Cornelia Nagy is being prosecuted by the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) for abuse of office in a case related to the illegal purchase of 1.7 million protective masks at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also indicted in the same case is ONAC public procurement advisor Ioana Madalina Hohan (former Deaconeasa), on charges of abuse of office with the receipt of undue benefits.

Anti-corruption prosecutors are also probing the Giurgiu-based company SC Romwine & Coffee SRL (a tobacco and liquor seller) and the managers of several trading companies for influence peddling, money laundering, forgery and fraud.

According to a DNA release, the current investigations are looking into the allegedly illegal conclusion in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, of a public procurement framework contract for the purchase of protective masks worth over 50 million RON.

Cornelia Nagy, in her capacity as ONAC president, and Ioana Madalina Hohan, supposedly acting in violation of the law, signed in March 2020 a framework agreement between ONAC and SC Romwine & Coffee SRL for the purchase of 1,750,000 protective masks.

The two ONAC representatives were enticed into this arrangement by the two businessmen who controlled Romwine & Coffee SRL and by the company’s manager, who had connived to interpose the company in the procedure for the award of the public procurement contract, although they knew that it lacked the technical and financial capacity to honor the framework agreement.

As SC Romwine & Coffee SRL was unable to meet the contractual clauses (timely delivery of the masks), several documents were falsified to allow it to avoid the payment of 12,786,706 RON in penalties to the Romanian state.

In order to secure the public procurement contracts with sanitary materials and make sure they unfold smoothly, one of the suspects allegedly paid another suspect 568,820 RON in the form of a consultancy & service and intermediation contract.

“The said activities have supposedly harmed the interests of the companies participating in the procedure and of the public institutions engaged in the prevention and response against the SARS-CoV-2 infection the protective materials were intended for. Also, the companies controlled by the suspects (the one that concluded the questionable contracts and the interposed companies) obtained undue benefits worth a total of 22,906,031 RON,” DNA said, according to Agerpres.

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