Scams in the days of Coronavirus

Neither a worldwide pandemic, with tens of thousands of deaths, stops serial fraudsters. In fact, they take advantage of the situation to get money.

This is the case of an Italian entrepreneur who took advantage of the coronavirus emergency to defraud the state and win a contract worth over 15 million euros for the supply of 24 million masks. The entrepreneur in question is Antonello Ieffi, he is 42, arrested Thursday morning by investigators from the Economic and Financial Police Unit of the “Guardia di Finanza” in Rome. The investigation carried out in a very short time by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. In twenty days, the operation put in place to circumvent the rules and participate in the tender through a screen company completely unable to secure the goods and deliver them to the hospitals on time required. Without even the money to pay it. Hence the allegations of auction disturbance and failure to fulfill a public contract for the suspect who, once he lost the contract after Consip’s complaint, was organizing with another ghost company to win another public tender: over 64 million for other medical material.

Faced with a pandemic that has already caused almost 140,000 infections and over 17,000 deaths in Italy, the state had to resort to special procedures for medical supplies, playing mainly on two factors to decide who to entrust the contracts quickly and guaranteeing the services: time and delivery capacity.

How the “unscrupulous” entrepreneur intended to proceed is difficult to say; surely, after being excluded from the contract for masks, he tried to participate with the Dental Express H24 company in a second tender for the supply of sterile gloves, goggles and protective suits and gowns, worth over 64 million of Euro. And when he was excluded, because the woman who was the sole director of the company had been convicted of concealing and destroying accounting documents, he tried to backdate the exclusion of the lady in February, in order to appeal and return to the race.

The judge said that the suspect “participated in the tender for urgent supplies for the public administration not only not yet having the availability of the goods to be delivered, but also in this case without still having in hand contractual commitments suitable to guarantee it in the short time required». Trying “to be readmitted by falsifying cards”, and once again through a company it turned out to be an “empty box”, without any ability to quickly obtain the materials or structures to make the necessary payments. Hence the decision sent Ieffi to prison as requested by the Prosecutor, despite the tendency to reduce arrests in the cell precisely by virtue of the coronavirus emergency. But the risk of recurrence of the crime shown by the wiretapping carried out just a week ago, on April 2, was considered too high for the granting of house arrest.

By: Domenico Greco

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