Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon is demanding that the government comes clean about its alleged relationship with a member of the United Arab Emirates ruling family Sheik Ahmad Dalmook Maktoum and his associate Umar Farooq Zahoor after an international media investigation tied the two men to an alleged vaccine racket scandal targeting poorer countries.
Guyana has been purchasing the Sputnik vaccines at more than double the cost through an arrangement with the Sheik who visited Guyana last November to much pomp and pageantry claiming that he was looking at investment opportunities.
In the National Assembly on Monday, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony confirmed that Guyana has been purchasing the vaccines through the Sheik, but explained that the arrangement was put in place since it was difficult to get the vaccines directly from the supplier in Russia.
An investigation by a newspaper in Norway highlighted the overpriced vaccine scandal and named Guyana as one of the countries caught up in the scandal.
The Opposition leader in a statement last evening said it is evident that the government did not exercise due diligence and knowingly participated in an international vaccine racket. He accused the PPP of being guilty and involved in a corrupt transaction that was deliberately sewn together to defraud the state and benefit a few people.
While the listed price for the Sputnik vaccine is pegged at US$10 per dose, Guyana has purchased the vaccine at more than US$22 per dose. Almost G$1 Billion has already been spent in the procurement of the vaccines through the UAE Sheik.
“This level of industrial scale corruption by the installed PPP regime has been disclosed at a time when Guyanese are suffering from a COVID-19 pandemic, the worst flood disaster in our history, high and rising cost of living, low wages and salaries paid to public servants and blatant discrimination by the installed PPP regime in the manner it manages the affairs of the state.” Mr. Harmon said.
International media investigation
Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) in an investigative piece titled: ‘Sputnik for sale’ reported that the Sheik and his associate would visit poorer countries and pledge vaccine donation and then ask that that country purchase the Sputnik vaccine through their arrangement. The newspaper investigation revealed that that vaccine is also being sold to countries at a premium.
In Guyana’s National Assembly on Monday, the Opposition Leader did raise some concerns about the cost Guyana is paying for the vaccine saying that in some cases the prices are doubled.
The report has also revealed that Mr. Zahoor, the Sheik’s associate, a Pakistani national who grew up in Norway, is a wanted in that country as part of an investigation into a massive fraud and that he is being sheltered and protected by the United Arab Emirates and his close associate Sheik Al Maktoum.
The Guyana Government has claimed that it does not know of a Mr. Zahoor.
“Even more disturbingly, the Verdens Gang report reveals that Sheik Al Maktoum has procured the Sputnik V vaccines via a Norwegian man by the name of Per Morten Hansen who is indicted in Norway for money laundering and evading customs duties.
When asked whether the Sputnik V vaccines bought by Guyana were procured via Per Morten Hansen, Dr. Anthony stated that he “don’t know who is that”. Mr. Harmon said.