SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina —
Bosnia’s state prosecutors say about a hundred ventilators imported from China by a private company and paid for by the country’s government have been found to be useless for COVID-19 patients.
The little known fruit-processing firm, with no license to import medical equipment, was granted 5 million euros ($5.5 million) to get the equipment to the small Balkan country amid the pandemic.
But after a public outcry over why the company, called Silver Raspberry and with ties to Bosnia’s political establishment, received the lucrative deal, the state prosecutor office opened an investigation into possible corruption and fraud.
In their initial report, the prosecutors said in a statement on Monday that the imported ventilators “do not meet even a minimum of necessary characteristics for adequate treatment” of coronavirus patients.
“Therefore, it is not advisable to use those ventilators in the intensive care units,” the statement said.
The company owner has rejected accusations that he imported the breathing machines at highly inflated prices. He said he used his business connections in China to accomplish what he called a “humanitarian mission.”
The graft allegations have come as no surprise in Bosnia, which is ranked poorly on Transparency International’s annual global corruption list. The watchdog group last year placed Bosnia 101st out of 180 countries.
Experts have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic, which caught officials in many countries unprepared and ill-equipped to meet the need for protective gear and ventilators, has created new opportunities for graft as governments rushed to get the supplies.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak