Guatemala: Outrage over the purchase of fake COVID tests

Several voices joined on Monday to request that the Public Ministry fully investigate the complaint – to which The Associated Press had access – presented by Amelia Flores, Minister of Health, and which warns the purchase of 30,000 laboratory tests for the detection of coronavirus SARS-COV2 for the area of ​​molecular biology and reagents for a value of 7.3 million quetzals (almost one million dollars).

“In the midst of the humanitarian crisis, it is inconceivable that there is corruption even in the purchase of tests to detect # COVID19, this should not go unpunished,” said Jordán Rodas, Human Rights Ombudsman.

Several opposition deputies also expressed their discomfort at the events denounced.

“It is outrageous that they are taking advantage of this crisis for enrichment fraudulently, they are not only cheating, but also playing with the lives of Guatemalans: We do not know if cases were detected in time or deaths could have been prevented,” said Andrea Villagran, opposition deputy.

Dr. Edwin Asturias, former commissioner for the management of the pandemic in Guatemala, said on his Twitter account that “Selling (to the Ministry of Health) false # COVID19 tests in the midst of the worst epidemic that has faced #Guatemala says everything about Health businessmen. How many positive cases were falsely diagnosed as negative and infected your family? ”.

According to the complaint, the tests were purchased from the company Kron Científica e Industrial Sociedad Anónima, which in turn said it acquired them from Atila Biosystems INC. —Based in the United States— and, so that the authority would not realize that they were false, the company delivered the material directly to the hospitals, something that was not contemplated in the purchase contract.

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In an email sent to the AP, Atila Biosystems INC. He said that the company is shocked “by the fraud perpetrated against the people of Guatemala” and confirmed that “none of Atila’s employees provided Kron with any shipments outside of the registered orders (which are not the same as the complaint). We consulted with our local distribution partners and they confirmed that none of the evidence from lot COVID20200423 (reported) was sold to Kron for use by the people of Guatemala. “

The company added that this “leads us to conclude that the alleged fraud perpetrated was a local manufacture, and Atila Biosystems will actively work to support the Government of Guatemala to ensure that justice is served.”

Flores, asked that Juan Pablo Arocha Urbina and Luis Alfredo Arocha Bermúdez, representatives of the company Kron Científica e Industrial Sociedad Anónima, and Ronaldo Estrada Rivera, former official, be investigated for possible crimes of fraud, perjury, falsification of private documents, conspiracy and fraud. of health and current vice minister of Culture and Sports, for having signed the purchase contract.

The tests that expire in September 2021 were delivered to the Chimaltenango and Huehuetenango hospitals. Last Friday, the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, which is hearing the case, collected evidence in both hospitals as evidence of the complaint.

Among the deficiencies that the Ministry of Health found in the tests that were delivered in Huehuetenango are that the reagent is not functional for carrying out the PCR tests, as well as the lack of adequate identification of the procedures manual.

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In the case of Chimaltenango, where 14,200 tests from the reported company arrived, at the time of setting up the tests, no replication of the controls was obtained, nor did the reagents coincide.

Fuzzy printing was also found on the label, as well as incomplete kits.

So far none of the defendants has spoken out on the complaint.

The same company sold 10,000 tests to detect COVID in June 2020 to the Guatemalan Social Security Institute for almost $ 400,000

As of Monday, Guatemala has 171,289 registered infections, of which 6,306 have resulted in death.

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