Greece is seeking to step up checks on the medical suppliers providing it with surgical masks, respirators and other materials and equipment necessary for its response to the coronavirus pandemic amid indications of profiteering across the globe.
On the initiative of Giorgos Mylonakis, a close aide to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a global network of Greek diplomats has been tasked with checking the reliability of suppliers before any payments are made. Already potential deliveries of masks and other supplies from Mexico, China and Turkey have been stopped as initial contacts with the companies in question raised concerns about credibility.
In one potential deal that fell through, Greek authorities had agreed to the delivery of 200,000 masks from a Chinese firm at a cost of 2.25 euros per item. A few hours before the delivery however, the supplier indicated that the masks were not available, citing concerns over standards.
It transpired that the company had delivered the masks to another country after representatives agreed to pay 6 euros per mask, Kathimerini understands. The money was delivered in suitcases with representatives of the company allegedly admitting to their Greek interlocutors that they had used special devices to check the bank notes.
Profiteering appears to be rife. From 20,000 euros at the outset of the pandemic, a respirator now costs up to double that. Meanwhile the cost of leasing an aircraft to bring supplies from China to Greece has risen from 300,000 euros to 1.2 million euros.
Government officials have said Greece has adequate supplies after moving early to sign bilateral deals and secure donations for millions of surgical masks as well as protective coveralls and chloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. But deliveries continue.
In the coming weeks, Greece is to take delivery of 500 respirators for hospital ICUs. Meanwhile negotiations are under way over a consignment of 13 million surgical masks that Greece ordered from China. Athens paid 2 million euros to a Greek supplier but the cargo was seized in Saudi Arabia for reasons that remain unclear.