ROME (AP) – A senior official on the World Well being Group has strongly denied making false statements to Italian prosecutors about an enriched UN report on Italy’s response to the coronavirus, doubling down on his claims in courtroom paperwork obtained by The Related Press.
WHO Particular Advisor Dr Ranieri Guerra set out his place in a 40-page response, accompanied by a 495-page annex, to prosecutors who positioned him underneath investigation final month for having made false statements to them when questioned on November 5.
Prosecutors’ claims create an image “which is kind of completely different from the truth of the info and most significantly, is imprecise and doesn’t respect the reconstruction of occasions supplied by Dr Guerra,” stated the response signed by Rome-based Guerra. lawyer, Roberto De Vita.
Prosecutors are investigating the large loss of life toll from COVID-19 within the Lombard province of Bergamo, which was hit hardest when Italy grew to become the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe final yr. Their investigation initially centered on whether or not the delayed lockdowns in Bergamo contributed to the toll, however expanded to incorporate whether or not Italy general preparation for the crisis played a role.
This second line of inquiry was sparked by the controversy over a WHO report on Italy’s response that was launched by the United Nations well being company on Could 13, 2020 however removed a day later from the WHO website and never republished.
The following scandal revealed that Italy’s pandemic preparedness plan had not been up to date since 2006, and the report’s disappearance instructed the WHO had doped it to keep away from authorities criticism. Italian and potential legal responsibility. WHO stated it was deleted as a result of it contained inaccuracies and was released prematurely.
Guerra, who was WHO’s liaison with the Italian authorities through the disaster, has not been charged. However he was embroiled within the scandal after report coordinator Dr Francesco Zambon accused Guerra of put pressure on him to modify the data within the report to indicate that the pandemic plan had been “up to date” in 2016-2017 when it had not been.
Bergamo prosecutors stated the preparedness plan ought to have been up to date throughout Guerra’s 2014-2017 tenure as head of prevention on the Italian Ministry of Well being to replicate new worldwide steerage from the WHO and of the European Fee in 2009 and 2013.
Within the new doc, Guerra argued that the WHO tips weren’t necessary and that the EU tips had been primarily about coordination with different states, not inside plans to battle the illness. pandemic.
Guerra additionally famous that earlier than leaving the ministry to affix the WHO in 2017, he wrote to the then minister alerting him that Italy wanted a brand new pandemic preparedness plan. Because of this, in keeping with his response, prosecutors ought to “confirm whether or not the motion initiated by Dr Guerra in September 2017 was adopted by those that succeeded him”.
As well as, Guerra pointed to the Italian areas, that are largely chargeable for well being care: he argued that nationwide preparedness plans are solely designed to offer organizational planning, whereas particular person areas are in cost. to place the plans into concrete motion with native laws and insurance policies. theirs.
Guerra additionally stated it had nothing to do with the choice to scale up the report and that the preliminary impetus got here from the WHO Beijing workplace, which objected to a politically delicate timeline of the Chinese language origins of the COVID-19.
“Please take away the doc from the net instantly. Think about this an emergency, ”WHO Consultant for China Gauden Galea wrote to Zambon and others on Could 14 in an connected electronic mail. “This doc is inaccurate and contradicts the siege schedule in a number of locations.”
Zambon admitted that he took the report off the net attributable to China’s inaccuracy, corrected it, and reprinted the report. However the WHO by no means put it again on the web site.
Bergamo prosecutors laid out their allegations towards Guerra in a March 8 rogatory request to Italy’s justice and international ministries, requesting their help in forwarding particular inquiries to the WHO as a part of the investigation.
Prosecutors’ doc included transcripts of WhatsApp conversations between Guerra and Dr Silvio Brusaferro, president of Italy’s Greater Institutes of Well being, by which Guerra seems to be bragging about intervening to counterpoint the report.
“Ultimately, I went to Tedros and had the doc eliminated,” Guerra wrote to Brusaferro on Could 14, 2020, referring to WHO Director-Common Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In his response to prosecutors, Guerra questioned the authenticity of the partial WhatsApp discussions and stated it lacked the required context to be understood. Both means, he stated, the content material “is irrelevant to the claimed investigation.”
The WHO press workplace denied that Tedros was concerned in doping the report and insisted it was withdrawn on the premise of “inaccuracies and inconsistencies” within the textual content, which, in keeping with him, had not validated all of the approvals.
Guerra’s lawyer De Vita stated in an interview that Guerra had suffered vastly from months of controversy over the report and was embittered to seek out himself now underneath investigation, as he freely surrendered to prosecutors to carry what he knew as a scientist and an official. .
“He might have, as others most likely have performed, availed himself of useful diplomatic immunity,” De Vita stated of Guerra’s standing as a UN official. “If he had one thing to cover, even from a distance,” he would by no means have left.
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