Did the Allen Chastanet administration fall victim to a scam to purchase AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines three months prior to being ousted from office?
Saint Lucians this week were seeking answers to this and many more questions after it became known that the Chastanet administration paid EC$7.3 Million to a company called ‘Radical Investment’ for vaccines in April of this year, the same company that has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, claiming to have been deceived and lured into an elaborate scam to advance the sum of US$10.2 million for one million non-existent doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The story of Saint Lucia’s involvement with this company and how it forked over millions of dollars to the company without first seeing what it was purchasing is riveting. Even more fascinating is the tone of a letter from Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and Public Service from the Director of Finance to the Permanent Secretary, Department of Health and Wellness.
That letter was dated April 20, 2021. It was subject: Approval of Direct Purchase for Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 Vaccines – Radical Investments LTD. The letter read in part:
“Please be advised that as per letter dated April 20, 2021 from the Minister of Finance, approval has been granted for procurement via Direct Award Purchase to: Radical Investments Ltd. In the amount of Eastern Caribbean Seven Million, Three Hundred and Thirty-Five thousand, Six Hundred and Thirty Dollars (EC$7,335,630.00) to facilitate the procurement of AstraZeneca Vaccines.”
The letter further stated that “Failure to comply with the above instruction will render your Ministry in breach of Sections 17 (2) and (3) of the Procurement and Stores Regulations, Chapter 15.01.”
The letter was signed Esther Rigobert, Director of Finance.
Efforts to contact Chastanet were fruitless, however, Prime Minister Philip J Pierre has made some initial comments about the deal that appears to have fallen through leaving Saint Lucia holding a bag that is empty both of vaccines and the EC$7.3 million.
According to Pierre his administration has attempted to retrieve the money but to no avail so far and complicating the actual retrieval is the type of arrangement the Chastanet administration made in its haste to get vaccines.
Pierre, last month at a House of Assembly meeting, said the previous administration was not firm in the arrangement it made to procure vaccines from Radical Investment.
The VOICE has been reliably informed that government will make a statement on that particular matter sometime in the near future, however Chastanet has been talking to the Barbados Today Newspaper about the deal his administration made with Radical Investment which included paying that company monies to procure vaccines.