It has been more than a month since the Hospital de La Línea de la Concepción realized that something was wrong with the shipment of available vaccines. They notified the National Police because there were missing doses and anomalies with the documentation of the people to be vaccinated against covid-19. At the edge of two in the afternoon this Friday, the doubt seems to have been cleared with a detention. The agents are investigating a 27-year-old nurse who was participating in the inoculation process for allegedly stealing vials, taking them out of the hospital in a refrigerator in the trunk of his car and selling them to third parties whose puncture did not yet correspond to them.
Investigators from the UDEV of the La Línea Police Station have detained the suspect in the framework of “a plot of illicit sale of vaccines” in which they believe there will be more detainees, as EL PAÍS has pointed out to the Police. However, the agents center the case around the figure of the young man whom they consider to be the main investigated. The worker, son of a nurse and a local policeman, is accused of bribery, falsification of documents and embezzlement of public funds in a case that the Court of Instruction Number 2 of La Línea keeps for now under summary secrecy.
The nurse took advantage of his easy access to vaccines to take them out of the hospital in a refrigerator aboard his Mercedes, one of the assets that the police have now seized from him. Supposedly, he used the private vehicle to go to inoculate the doses at home or on the street. In addition, investigators have searched his parents’ family home to try to gather new evidence. The agents are focusing their investigations on the young man’s cell phone to find out how he closed the vaccine sales deals and what amount he was getting charged for them. “We are quantifying the number of vials that have been distracted or stolen, whether they were complete or the remains,” points out a source familiar with the case.
The first investigations suggest that the nurse used forged documents to make the doses disappear. In some cases, the police suspect that he inoculated doses to people before they were due and, later, when they were already summoned in the shift that really corresponded to them, he kept those vials to sell them. In others, “it marked as vaccinated people who really were not” to get more vaccines, according to a source familiar with the case.
The research has been carried out thanks to the collaboration of the Campo de Gibraltar Este Sanitary Management Area of the Andalusian Health Service, the Andalusian Regional Government’s Ministry of Health and Families. However, the institution has not clarified any details of what happened, since “it is under judge” [pendiente de una resolución judicial], as they have clarified. The arrest has caused surprise both in the hospital itself, and in La Línea de la Concepción, since his mother is a well-known professional in health environments. “The vaccination process, without a doubt, is very measured. But if someone is working there, and has free access to the material, stealing it does not have much difficulty, who is going to suspect that a colleague is going to do something like that? “, Says a professional from the hospital.
La Línea de la Concepción, with 62,940 inhabitants, has been one of the Andalusian towns hardest hit by the coronavirus. On December 21, it reached a rate of 2,551.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants that kept the city confined to the perimeter for weeks and with all its non-essential businesses closed. In January, a gradual decrease in cases began and is now at 47.1 cases and 14 confirmed in the last seven days. Although there is no cross data, the town is benefiting from the advancement of the vaccination campaign in nearby Gibraltar, where after vaccinating more than 70% of its population, they now focus their efforts on puncturing cross-border workers, 14,669 people, from of which 9,484 are Spanish, many of them neighboring La Línea.
The pandemic has generated new forms of crime that the security forces and bodies are already investigating. On April 28, the National Police arrested a 24-year-old pharmacist who defrauded Moroccan workers in El Ejido (Almería). The professional demanded 130 euros from them to carry out PCR so that they could travel to their country – Morocco requires a negative PCR – and pretended to do the test, although what he was actually giving them was a forged document. In addition, researchers have detected other types of scams, such as requests for information online to access supposed appointments for vaccination that, in reality, pursue the theft of data or offers to buy presumed doses of vaccines on the black market and, therefore, of dubious origin.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.