Deyalsingh denies family link in vaccine deal… threatens legal action against 2 who posted claims

Hours after allegations of a link between a relative of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and a local company that the Government was using to order COVID-19 vaccines from Hong Kong surfaced, the minister was pursuing legal action against Suzette Lowe and Marcia Braveboy for making the claims and publishing them on social media.

In a two-page release via the Health Ministry yesterday, Deyalsingh condemned the allegations and denied there was any connection between himself and the VARY Medical and Scientific Company.

The Braveboy Report had on Sunday claimed that the Government had ordered the vaccines from Hong Kong through a local medical company linked to Deyalsingh’s family. The report named the Hong Kong-based company Hewasky Quest Global as the international contact through which VARY Medical and Scientific Company allegedly made the request.

It was also alleged that VARY Medical and Scientific Company has an office on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain and that a relative of the minister was the owner of a company that allegedly shares the same address as VARY Medical and Scientific Company.

In dismissing the allegations yesterday, Deyalsingh’s release stated, “There is no affiliation between the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, or anyone in his family and VARY Medical and Scientific Company.

“There is no affiliation between the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, or anyone in his family and any other COVID-19 vaccine and/or pharmaceutical manufacturer and/or distributor.

“VARY Medical and Scientific Company does not share a business address with any organisation linked to the Minister of Health or his family.”

Deyalsingh’s release noted, however, that VARY Medical and Scientific Company did contact the ministry on the issue of vaccines.

“VARY Medical and Scientific Company did write to the Minister of Health, the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development at the Tobago House of Assembly, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and the Chief Medical Officer offering COVID-19 vaccines to Trinidad and Tobago for purchase,” the release said.

“The local authorised distributor for AstraZeneca and AstraZeneca themselves confirmed that VARY Medical and Scientific Company is not authorised to offer COVID-19 vaccines for sale, on behalf of AstraZeneca. There is no contractual arrangement between the Ministry of Health and VARY Medical and Scientific Company for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, nor is any such arrangement being contemplated.”

Deyalsingh also urged the public to refrain from sharing misinformation “which could derail the efforts of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to secure authentic, WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines for the population in the shortest time frame.”

Contacted yesterday on the issue, VARY Medical and Scientific Co. Ltd director Dr Yash Sharma said they had “no comment” to make on the matter at the time. However, Sharma said the company would most likely issue a statement today.

This is not the first time Deyalsingh has had to respond to allegations that a relative was allegedly affiliated with a company receiving state contracts.

In August 2018, he was forced to set the record straight following claims by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar regarding a possible conflict of interest in the award of major state projects. At the time, he denied the allegations and assured that all contracts awarded by the Ministry of Health were above board. However, he confirmed that his wife had been providing consultancy services for a particular company over the past 15 years spanning several administrations.

Regarding his wife’s alleged involvement in several projects, Deyalsingh had said back then that with regards to the Mt. Hope School of Dentistry project, this was a UWI project and not a government project as suggested by Persad-Bissessar. He said he had no involvement in that project. On the Red House restoration project, he said when it was discussed at a Cabinet meeting he declared an interest in the matter and took no part in the deliberations, which was in keeping with the highest standards of transparency and good governance.

He again denied having any involvement in that project. On refurbishment work done on two wards at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital during that time, Deyalsingh also said the contract was awarded by the North West Regional Health Authority and approved by the Permanent Secretary since he had declared an interest in the matter. Similarly, he again claimed to have no involvement in the project.

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