Portugal’s PJ police “concentrate investigations on vaccine fraud”

Portugal’s hugely embarrassing ‘fraudulent vaccinations scandal’ shows no signs of going away.

No matter how much prime minister António Costa seems to have tried to deflect press attention, the truth is that hundreds of people appear to have ‘jumped the queue’ at a time when only the most vulnerable are meant to have been given protection.

Says Expresso, the Attorney General’s office has announced nine separate inquiries. “Crimes at issue are abuse of power, receipt of undue advantage and prevarication”, carrying maximum prison terms of anything between two to five years.

The inquiries refer to situations involving the Social Security offices of Setúbal, INEM Lisbon, INEM Porto and allegations made in Portimão, Vila Nova de Famalicão, Arcos de Valdevez, Bragança, Seixal and Montijo.

The paper says it knows of a 10th inquiry “relating to the vaccination of Portimão mayoress Isilda Gomes” (click here).

“The PJ will concentrate investigations into frauds with vaccinations against Covid-19”, the paper explains. “In this way, inspectors will work together with regional prosecutors of the Public Ministry.

“We are going to act the prevent these crimes”, said a PJ source.

The General Medical Council meantime has stressed that it has been alerting authorities to “tens of cases” in which people appear to have been vaccinated “without belonging to any priority grouping” since more or less the moment Portugal’s vaccination programme began (December 27).

“In all my time on the council, I have never been contacted as I am being now, about the vaccines”, Carlos Cortes, president of the GMC’s regional council in the centre of the country, told reporters.

“From the first day of vaccinations we have been sending letters about cases considered suspicious to the ministry of health, the task force and the various other entities involved. We must have sent more than 80 letters, and we’re still receiving complaint after complaint”.

Says Expresso “this means that health minister Marta Temido has been privy to information on alleged irregularities with the vaccines for roughly one month. Even so, it was only on January 28 that the health minister actioned IGAS (the body that investigates the health service in these situations)”.

A source at IGAS has told the paper that the ‘objective’ of this ‘actioning’ was to “verify that rules applicable to the vaccination process were complied with”.

For the time being, IGAS’ inspection is covering the country’s five regional health administrations: the north, the centre, Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo, Alentejo and Algarve and INEM.

Expresso’s information points to various hospitals having allegedly vaccinated “doctors who are no longer working”, and those that have retired. 

Indeed it was a situation like this that led to the resignation last week of Portugal’s former vaccination task force coordinator Francisco Ramos (click here).

Allegations under investigation suggest whole boards of health institution directors may have received vaccinations ahead of time.

“One of the complaints that reached the GMC referred to those in charge of the Misericórdia (old people’s home) of Entroncamento which is understood to have vaccinated the administrative council ahead of the medical team”, says Expresso – adding that it has contacted the institution to check this but was unable to talk to the person in charge.

Similar denouncements have also been received by the Ordem dos Enfermeiros (Nurses Order), says the paper.

Speaking last night in his regular slot on SIC television news, economist and former Left Bloc leader Francisco Louça stressed ‘there is fraud, and there are situations where left-over doses of vaccine are used in order not to go to waste’.

In other words, where the latter situation can be verified, the occasional vaccination of non-priority people could be seen as ‘just one of those things’.

But in cases where “mayors with no right to this advantage” and board directors and others allow themselves to be pushed ahead of people who desperately need to be protected, then “this is painful, this is fraud. It is punishable and I hope it will be”, he said – adding that the government’s sloth in taking a stand has been “worrying”.

Politically, it has been a ‘terrible week’ for the government of António Costa – and the next fortnight doesn’t look like there will be any let up, as ICU doctors warn pressure on hospitals will remain intense.

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