Criminal proceedings launched in connection with Latvia's vaccine procurement

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The Prosecutor's Office has launched criminal proceedings in connection with the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, Prosecutor General Juris Stukāns told Latvian Radio May 27.

“Today, the prosecutor decided to initiate criminal proceedings relating to the purchase of vaccines. And the process has been launched in relation to lack of action by public officials. The KNAB's [Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau] decision on refusal to initiate [criminal proceedings] has been revoked,” Stukāns said.

Criminal proceedings were launched on Thursday, May 27. An investigation has been initiated regarding the non-fulfilment of the duties of a public official (Section 319, Paragraph one of the Criminal Law). The start of proceedings does not mean that anyone has been formally charged with a crime as yet.

"The investigation of the case will be handed over to the investigating authority, and the responsibility of ministers in relation to all these procurements will also be assessed,” Stukāns said.

Latvia could initially have applied for a higher number of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, but a decision was taken on a smaller quantity, with hopes pinned on a larger delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines which failed to materialize as expected.

The Ministry of Health believes the decision cannot be called an error, except with the benefit of hindsight. By the end of the year healthcare officials also decided to order only half of the available Moderna vaccines. In total, Latvia declined to purchase approximately 1.3 million doses of vaccines, which would allow approximately 650,000 people to be vaccinated.

The decisions taken at the time have already caused the demotion of two Health Ministry officials.

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