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Ventilator Purchases: Potential Police Investigation in Hungary After Scandal in Slovenia

Fanni Kaszás 2020.07.27.

Ágnes Vadai, Member of Parliament for opposition party Democratic Coalition (DK), turned to Péter Polt, the Chief Prosecutor, with questions about the ventilators purchased at an average price of HUF 10 million during the coronavirus crisis. Polt forwarded the questions to the police in a report, so an investigation will probably be launched into the matter.

The opposition representative turned to the Chief Prosecutor after it turned out that the Slovenian company, whose purchases had triggered a corruption scandal in Slovenia, had also contracted for the purchase of ventilators with the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The company Geneplanet caused a serious political crisis in Slovenia after an investigation into the purchase of ventilators was opened against them on suspicion of corruption, and even a house search was conducted in the house of the Minister of Economy. The purchase of ventilators was suspected to have been controlled and the instruments may have been overpriced as well, which led to investigations into budget fraud and financial damage. It was recently revealed that the company has also signed a contract with the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the purchase of ventilators.

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At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Prime Minister Orbán, Hungary had a supply of 2,560 respirators to help treat those who are in intensive hospital care due to their severe symptoms caused by the virus. To prepare for the worst case scenario, the PM said they were on the hunt to buy […]Continue reading

It is not known for how many ventilators the company contracted with the Foreign Ministry and for how much, but according to the list of suppliers, issued by the ministry in response to a public interest data request from G7, the company is among the total of 21 organizations contracted by the ministry. In addition, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced in May that he had been able to contract for the purchase of more than 200 ventilators through a Slovenian intermediary. However, it is not known if this company was Geneplanet or not.

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The Socialist Party has called on the government to clarify the status of health-care-related procurements during the novel coronavirus epidemic, a party lawmaker said on Friday. Ildikó Borbély Bangó told an online press conference that the foreign ministry had ordered the purchase of “outrageously priced” ventilators by international comparison, and one of the companies used […]Continue reading

Among other things, Ágnes Vadai inquired whether Hungarian law enforcement authorities “have no suspicion of corruption, or at least irregular public procurement,” as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bought ventilators at almost twice the average price paid by the Slovenian government. In Hungary,  a total of 16,000 ventilators were purchased for HUF 300 billion (EUR 867 million), while in Slovenia, the company was contracted for the purchase of 220 ventilators for EUR 8 million, but the number of medical instruments was later halved and the price was reduced to EUR 3.6 million. Thus, the average price of the 16,000 ventilators purchased by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to be high not only compared to the ones bought by Slovenia, but also compared to the ones the Hungarian State Healthcare Center (ÁEEK) purchased for almost half of the Ministry’s prices.

According to the article of Hungarian liberal news portal 444.hu, Vadai also asked the Attorney General if “the Prosecutor’s Office intends to investigate the Hungarian government’s purchase of the ventilators?” In his response, Polt said that he had assessed Vadai’s request as a report and forwarded it to the Budapest Police Headquarters. Polt said “it is the investigating authority’s task to assess whether the complaint of conduct escalates to a suspicion of a criminal offense and, therefore, whether there is a need to order an investigation.”

featured photo: illustration (Károly Árvai/MTI/kormany.hu)