Governments worldwide have disbursed substantial sums, amounting to tens of billions of dollars, to pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer for COVID-19 vaccines that will remain unused due to insufficient demand. In a recent development, the Romanian Senate has granted permission for prosecutors to scrutinize Florin Citu, who served as Romania’s prime minister in 2021, for allocating $1.1 billion towards the purchase of 53 million mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer. Remarkably, these acquired vaccines were never used in Romania.
Florin Citu, is presently a senator within the ruling Liberal Party, a role that ordinarily grants him immunity from prosecution, however, on Thursday, anti-corruption prosecutors in Romania formally requested parliament and the president to authorise a criminal inquiry into the actions of the former Prime Minister and also of his former health ministers.
Florin Citu led a centrist coalition government after the December 2020 general election which was in power for less than a year amid the peak of the coronavirus pandemic with Vlad Voiculescu and Ioana Mihaila, were both members of the junior party USR, served as health ministers in his administration.
Abuse of Power
The investigation centers on suspected abuse of office related to the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. The prosecutors aim to scrutinize Citu, Voiculescu, and Mihaila for allegedly acquiring an excessive number of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses between January and May 2021 without proper documentation or assessments justifying the scale of the purchase, but Florin Citu has emphasised that he exercised his duties as prime minister “in accordance with Romanian legislation.”
Under Romanian law, prosecutors need parliament’s and the president’s approval to investigate and detain sitting lawmakers and former cabinet ministers for graft offences allegedly committed while they were in office, according to Reuters, who add that “Lawmakers have a patchy record of approving such requests, but Citu has been a vocal critic of the current coalition government which includes his party, ahead of local, European, general and presidential elections in 2024.”
Unfortunately for Citu, but rightly so, the Senate voted 90-2 to lift that immunity to enable the investigation to move forward, Romanian news outlets reported Source All three may be charged with “abuse of power” (also translated as “abuse of office”), prosecutors have said.