Pfizergate Investigation Taken Over by EU Prosecutor’s Office

An investigation into the EU purchase of COVID vaccines was announced by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), expanding the scope of a probe into allegations of wrongdoing against the von der Leyen-led Commission.

The investigation relates to von der Leyen’s personal handling of the vaccine order, with specific concern over her direct messaging with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. The entire EU procurement process was plagued by waste, delays, and claims of conflict of interest.

The news that EPPO— the EU’s very own anti-corruption agency— is taking control of the investigation reflects badly on von der Leyen, who in March 2024 was confirmed once again as the European People’s Party (EPP)’s candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission. Already dismayed by her handling of the EU green deal and foreign policy, parts of her centrist parliamentary faction have joined external critics in publically scrutinising her record.

The EPPO investigation was sparked by complaints from Belgian campaigner Frédéric Baldan, alongside legal actions led by the Hungarian government (but not the recently installed pro-EU regime in Warsaw, which has coincidentally dropped its lawsuit against von der Leyen over her relationship with Pfizer in recent months).

Infamously, the EU was a global laggard during the vaccine rollout in 2021, with many national leaders blaming the Brussels bureaucracy for the slowness of the process that was centralised by Eurocrats. (In contrast, Brexit Britain delivered its vaccine programme in record time.)

Von der Leyen elicited international headlines late last year with news that The New York Times was taking the Commission to court to obtain the text messages between her and the Pfizer CEO, with the American newspaper questioning how the company obtained the contract at the expense of rival AstraZeneca. Commentators queried whether the vaccine was fast-tracked through the regulatory process without the proper considerations.

Von der Leyen was already facing questions from the EU Ombudsman over a lack of transparency, since the EU deal with Pfizer prompted health experts to lament the sheer waste of the vaccine procurement programme, as billions worth of product was dumped, due to a combination of oversupply and errors in the original contract.

While the Commission boss is afforded some degree of partial immunity under EU law, von der Leyen and her team may face having EPPO confiscate their laptops and phones for review of all electronic messaging. 

To date, the Commission has not issued any statement regarding the investigation being upgraded. Likewise, Pfizer media representatives declined to comment when contacted by The European Conservative.

Thomas O’Reilly is an Irish journalist working for The European Conservative in Brussels. He has an educational background in chemical sciences and journalism. 

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