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Pharmaceutical dealings under scrutiny as Pruidze is detained on suspicion of corruption

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, September 17
The former Deputy Minister of Health, Labor and Social Protection Nikoloz (Koka) Pruidze was detained for the alleged abuse of office and bribe-taking on September 16. According to the information released by the General Prosecutor’s Office, Pruidze which had been the Deputy Minister, helped Besarion Gotsiridze - his friend and the Director of N-Pharma+ Company - to win the tender of the Disease Prevention State Programme in 2008.

“The tender commission, based on illegal support from Pruidze affected the state by offering the preparation for a three-fold inflated price. This step damaged the State Budget by GEL 700 000 as a whole. Moreover, the commission neglected the GPC Company’s participation in the tender which was offering the medicine at a cheaper price,” General Prosecutor’s Office had stated. Pruidze, who denies the charges, served as Deputy Healthcare Minister from 2004 and was dismissed a few weeks before Alexander Kvitashvili’s resignation from the post of Healthcare Minister on August 31 this year.

Zurab Natroshvili, the founder of N-Pharma+, now one of the suspects of the crime, told the investigators that Besarion Gotsiridze had sent his friend Nikoloz Pruidze GEL 25 000 for protecting his company after he had won the tender. This testimony revealed that Pruidze aimed to receive the bribe. “The investigation has got a testimony of one of the suspects [of the criminal act] that the tender aimed at revealing relevant preparations for the immune vaccination had been an artificial process. This statement has been proved by the fact that N-Pharma+ Company had neither the infrastructure nor the professional experience required in working on the Pharmaceutical market,” The Deputy Head of the Investigative Department of the Prosecutor's Office Zaza Kachibaia told the media.

It had been the state audit agency probe initiated by the Chamber of Control which revealed Pruidze’s fault. The report introduced a variety of violations concerning the state purchases controlled by the former Deputy Minister. “The victory of N-Pharma+ had been encouraged by the Director of the National Center for Desease Control Paata Imnadze and his assistant,” the audit report further concluded. However, Imnadze remains in his post and stresses that the investigators had only questioned him about the vaccination of measles, rubella and mumps in 2009. Paata Imnadze, who had been responsible for signing the documents necessary for the immunization process, said he has done his job without breaching his obligations. “The only things we discussed at the joint meeting [concerning the tender] were the documents necessary for participation in the process. We had asked questions [to the company] about the validity of the preparations while all the other things had been upon the tender commission to decide,” Imnadze said, stressing that the commission itself was responsible for choosing the N-Pharma+.

The investigation is designed to find Besarion Gotsiridze guilty and reveal the other state offenders. If convicted, each guilty party could face a jail sentence of up to 10 years.