The National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) of Romania announced Thursday the initiation of a criminal investigation into a high-profile case involving the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines targeting three individuals, including former Prime Minister Florin Cîțu and former Ministers of Health Vlad Voiculescu and Ioana Mihăilă, for alleged crimes of abuse of office.
In a press release, the DNA Chief Prosecutor stated there is reasonable evidence that between January and May 2021, while serving in government, Voiculescu and Mihăilă illegally contracted for and spent 1 billion Euros on more vaccine doses than necessary. According to the report, Romania’s population that was eligible for vaccination at the time was estimated at 10.7 million by authorities. Yet doses purchased before January 2021 already totaled enough to vaccinate over 23 million. Prosecutors allege the additional 52 million doses ordered provided no documentation of need and constituted damages to the state budget. The suspects allegedly exploited pandemic conditions and transacted the excess purchases with help from each other. If approved, the criminal investigations would proceed under statutes concerning abuse of office and serious dereliction of duty by public officials.
In response to the allegations, Cîțu took to Facebook, asserting his good faith, respect for the law and confidence in the judicial process to uncover the truth. Voiculescu acknowledged disagreements with vaccination decisions made by those in charge but defended the vaccine procurement as an opportunistic decision made amid uncertainties surrounding production availability, strain evolution and the need for revaccination.
The Social Democratic Party (PSD) condemned what it perceived as double standards practiced by the leadership of the Save Romania Union Party (USR) regarding responses to criminal investigations within political parties, claiming that the USR is ignoring the allegations despite asking other parties to quickly address criminal allegations in the past. In a post on Facebook, the PSD commented that “a billion euros was the cost paid by the Romanians in the midst of the pandemic for the millions of doses of useless vaccines bought by these criminals.”