Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Iranian health ministry faces corruption allegation over COVID-19 test kits

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London-based Iran International TV said on Wednesday that it has obtained a leaked document that reveals widespread corruption in the Iranian Health Ministry, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and two organizations under the control of the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

The document is a letter sent by a private company to an official at Iran’s national coronavirus taskforce in the health ministry regarding the importation of testing kits for the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

It reportedly reveals “the competition process” between a subsidiary affiliated with the IRGC and another organization controlled by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking to establish the exclusive rights to import and distribute COVID-19 testing kits from a Korean company — MiCo BioMed — in Iran.

According to the letter, MiCo BioMed representatives were invited to Iran by a  private company called Irgan Mehr.

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The Iran International report claimed that several health ministry officials “used their influence” to sign a contract with the Korean company through a subsidiary foundation under the direct control of the Supreme Leader of Iran, known as the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order foundation (EIKO).

This enabled them to buy the testing kits for around 25,000 Iranian Toman ($5.94) and sell them for 60,000 Iranian Toman ($14.25).

The negotiations with MiCo BioMed began in late February and the Korean company was given assurances that although American parts were used in the testing kits, US sanctions would not hinder the deal, Iran International reported.

The negotiations stalled when the Medical Community Basij Organization, a paramilitary organization affiliated with the IRGC, confiscated the equipment and froze the funds for the devices — as well as 300 test kits — holding them “hostage” on condition it would receive the exclusive rights to distribute the products in Iran.

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While Irgan Mehr was waiting to receive the relevant distribution permits from the Health Ministry, another subsidiary of the EIKO, called KBC, stepped in and signed a contract with MiCo BioMed, without a permit from the ministry, the letter reportedly reveals.

Sadeq Saba from Iran International said: “The leaked letter that we have seen states that the Korean company was surprised to see how the regime’s institutions are fighting over financial gain instead of focusing on the coronavirus crisis.

“With many cases such as this, it seems that the main problem in fighting the coronavirus crisis in Iran is the corruption within the regime and not the sanctions.”

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist, told Arab News the report is an example of the regime’s “total disregard for their citizens and human life.”

He said there is widespread corruption within Iran’s Ministry of Health, the IRGC and other organizations controlled by the Iranian regime, claiming that financial and political corruption at the top level of Iranian authorities has been documented for almost four decades.

“The Iranian regime’s corruption and mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, and its attempts to hide and downplay the scope of the coronavirus in the country have sparked anger and fury inside Iran and abroad,” he said. “Once again, the regime’s actions show that it prioritizes its revolutionary ideals and its survival over public health and human lives.”

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