Delta virus: New schemes and stats fraud

Belarus authorities claim that there was about 1 bln dollars spent on Covid treatment. But journalists from “Davaite razbiratsia” found out that medications supplies are still overpriced. Moreover, medical workers don’t mind overstepping their functional authority to help their close ones. Meanwhile, official statistics of death cases seem neither credible nor reliable.

Excessive pricing

This March Alexander Lukashenko ordered to bring prices on medications and medical equipment under control. By doing so, he wanted to prevent unreasonable price increase. Our investigation proves that a number of businessmen managed to make good money on medication supplies.

According to “Belpharmacia” procurement reports, they were going to buy a large batch of a russian medicine called “Thiopental Natrium” (used in artificial ventilation) for 500000 belarusian rubles. Our investigators checked the batch prices and found out that their cost is twice as much as prices registered in Russia. Overall, only the batch we checked overpriced for 185 000 belarusian rubles.

Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat

“Vitpharmmarket”, whose majoritarian owner is a businessman named Leonid Tomchin, a defendant in the “doctors’ plot”, made a profit on this procurement. His wife Anzhela used to work as a chief doctor in Vitebsk oncology center and as a Deputy of Regional Council.

Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat

Private company “VitVar” supplied “Belpharmacia” with an anti-inflammatory medication called “Metypred”, which the Ministry of Health prescribes for covid therapy. The Finnish manufacturer registered its price in Russia for about 6 belarusian rubles per package.

Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat

Anyway, “Belpharmacia” decided to buy the drug from “VitVar” for a price five times higher than that – 30 belarusian rubles.

Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat

Alexey Sychev is the owner of “VitVar” company and one of the defendants in the “doctors’ plot”. In the middle of the process he got into hospital so his case was separated. People in “Nativita”, which was found by Sychev, say that he paid a large fine. Then in 2020 left Belarus for Slovakia and settled there. In 2021 “Nativita” got fined 32,3 mln belarusian rubles for overpricing on medications.

Graphics: Belsat

The team of Belarus Investigative Center, which is in charge of “Davaite razbiratsia” program, found out that Alexey’s Sychev youngest son became the owner of an apartment in a prestigious area of Minsk. This flat previously belonged to the former Minister of Health Vasily Zharko. He was called Liudmula’s Postoyalko protege, preceding Minister of Health. Liudmila Postoyalko is believed to be Alexander’s Lukashenko youngest son Nikolai.

Graphics: Belsat
Graphics: Belsat

“Nativita” personnel rushed to explain the situation to TUT.by right after our investigation was published:

Graphics: Belsat

Soon after the property purchase, Sychev increased his company’s medication supplies to organizations of the Ministry of Health.

This summer the Republican Research and Practical Center for Cardiology was redesigned to admit patients with Covid and purchased about 25 breathing masks. The center procured the masks from “Belmedsnabtechnika” for 600 belarusian rubles per piece. It turned out that these masks are produced in Germany where they cost half that price. Even in Poland they are cheaper.

At first the Center had an agreement to pay 5600 belarusian rubles for 25 breathing masks. But eventually its administration signed another agreement according to which the overall amount increased up to 15125 belarusian rubles.

Good connections

Leakings from “Cyber Partisans” revealed an interesting tendency among officials. They overuse their functional authority to help their friends and family when those get sick with coronavirus.

A doctor from Minsk Regional Hospital received a call from a person who sounds like Zinoviy Gozman, First Deputy Head of Directorate General for Healthcare.

Graphics: Belsat

– Do you know who Kireeva is?

– Not sure, to be honest.

– Kireeva Irina Alexandrovna is the Head of Directorate of Quality Expertise of the Ministry of Health, the right-hand woman of Pinevich, his favourite. Irina Alexandrovna wants you to do her a favour. There’s a person with fever and this person works in the same room with someone who’s got Covid. So, it’s obvious that our person has Covid. But I know that we don’t report about it. So please make sure that this person is taken care of and checked properly but no one has to know about it. The ambulance will take him to a CT scan and then straight to your hospital.

– OK. Got it.

As appears from the leaked recording, Irina Kireeva asked an official for a personal favor after hours.

Another leaked recording has a conversation between someone who sounds like Vladimir Karanik, the former Head of the Ministry of Healthcare and incumbent Governor of Grodno region, and Natalia Boyarskaya, the Chief of General Directorate of Minsk region Executive Committee.

Graphics: Belsat

– Yes, Vladimir Stepanovich?

– Good evening, Natalia Ivanovna. I guess you realise that the real purpose of my call is not to hear your beautiful voice but rather assign you with another important task. One friend of mine is having a fever. Do you think I can send you the information so that you can take good care of her?

– Sure, Vladimir Stepanovich. Whatever you ask.

Unfortunately, our investigators failed to validate the authenticity of these recordings as phonoscope examination wasn’t conducted. However, nobody ever refuted the authenticity of recordings provided by Cyber Partisans, whose telegram channel was declared extremist.

Secret data

It is well-known that the official mortality rate from Covid in Belarus seems abnormally low: it is a quarter lower than rates in countries all over the world.

Graphics: Belsat

Alexey Scherbinsky, the head of Directorate General for Healthcare Organisation in Belarus believes that “thanks to the high quality healthcare system” the rate remains so low and stable.

Graphics: Belsat

Meanwhile, there have been more death cases since the pandemic started. Last year BelStat concealed the rate but the media found the data provided to the UN and published it. In the second quarter of 2020 there were 5600 more death cases than for the same period in 2019. The question is why BelStat not only didn’t announce the reports to the people this year but also didn’t provide the UN with the actual information.

Graphics: nashaniva.com

Irina Bichan, the Deputy Chief of Directorate General for demographic and health care statistics commented:

“We are still in process. This year we have difficulties because of the Covid situation. The data we report is based on official documents. We never brush it. It’s out of the question”.

Graphics: Belsat

In the meantime, the mortality rate isn’t decreasing. A crematorium employee said that they have been experiencing a heavy workload in recent times – “about 30-40 bodies are sent each day”.

Sergey Tur, the Deputy Chief of Ideological Teaching of State Funeral Service, refuted the information:

“Everything is going according to plan. The crematorium is not overloaded, it works as it used to 5-10 years ago. We take from 15 to maximum 25 deceased every day”.

Graphics: Belsat

Underreporting: evidence 1- registry offices

Meanwhile, journalists receive leakings from databases. The “Mediazone” got reports from Minsk registry offices about Covid death cases and flash reports about infected people in 2020. According to Gleb Lepeiko, a journalist at the “Mediazone”, the data in the reports runs counter to the official numbers.

“When we counted 700 death cases from Covid in Minsk, the Ministry of Health announced only 415 during the same period from November till December. With regard to the number of sick people, it depends. In the pandemic the difference in numbers was two times. For example, 2000-2200 infected people were registered in Minsk only, whereas the Ministry talked about 1000 around the country.”

Thus, the official numbers in the country are two times lower than the numbers of people registered in Minsk registry offices only. But can we trust this information?

So we decided to have a focus group of 75 respondents with sick leaves. However, we managed to find only 25 of them in the database, in which, surprisingly, it says that the patients got sick at the same time and were admitted to the same hospital.

Underreporting: evidence 2 – Bobruisk hospital

How about data in the regions of the country? The Ministry classified it too. But a former employee of Bobruisk Center of Hygiene provided us with flash reports. Although according to the officials the rate of people who had Covid around the country is 2%, in Bobruisk the rate is somehow higher – 10%.

Graphics: Belsat

We also received patients’ discharge reports from Bobruisk hospital, which says that on June 3 eight people died in the hospital, whereas all over the country the Ministry of Health reported only 11 death cases.

Graphics: Belsat

Underreporting: evidence 3 – crematoriums

In the meantime, the mortality rate isn’t decreasing. A crematorium employee said that they have been experiencing a heavy workload in recent times – “about 30-40 bodies are sent each day”.

Sergey Tur, the Deputy Chief of Ideological Teaching of State Funeral Service, refuted the information:

“Everything is going according to plan. The crematorium is not overloaded, it works as it used to 5-10 years ago. We take from 15 to maximum 25 deceased every day”.

Graphics: Belsat

Our investigators decide to see it with their own eyes. On the first day they reported 22 deceased, on the second and third days – 72 and 40 accordingly.

Graphics: Belsat

Underreporting: evidence 4 – taxes of funeral service companies

In the first quarter of this year funeral parlours increased the amount of taxes they usually pay. This year they paid 2200000 belarusian rubles, whereas last year it was 1400000, although their price list hasn’t changed.

Graphics: Belsat

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