Although the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released just over 41,000 rapid tests for Covid-19 that Castro Business was supposed to deliver to Health Department, the agency did not take steps to receive them, declared the owner of the company, Ricky Castro Ortiz.
From an ascending purchase to 50,000 serological tests to detect antibodies, Castro Business delivered 8,900 a Salud between March 27 and 30, Castro Ortiz testified before the Health Commission of the House of Representatives.
However, and as the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) had already reported on May 7, 41,100 of the tests were stopped at the Luis Muñoz Marín airport.
Castro Ortiz, when asked by the president of the commission, Juan Oscar Morales, indicated that those 41,100 tests were subsequently released and, due to the inaction of the Department of Health, chose to sell them to other buyers.
During his testimony, Castro Ortiz did not specify to whom he sold the tests or on what date they were released by the FDA.
“The rest, as soon as it was released by the FDA, was sold because we couldn’t get the Department of Health (para) to tell us if they were still interested. They don’t return our calls, “Castro stressed.
The government purchased the 50,000 tests from Castro Business at a cost of $ 13 each, for a total of $ 650,000. So far, as far as is known, they are the cheapest unit tests the government has acquired since the Covid-19 emergency began.
However, the CPI reported on May 5 that some 200 tests supplied by Castro Business, Phamatech brand, had been returned by private laboratories as they were not satisfied with the quality of the product.
During the hearing, however, Castro Ortiz did not allude to that situation, nor was he questioned about the quality of the rapid tests. The businessman did mention that the tests were certified by the FDA and noted that he provided the Health Commission with a copy of that certification.
Rodríguez Quilichini was the first contact
In his testimony, Castro Ortiz confirmed that his first effort to sell the material to the government was to contact, on March 22, the Doctor Segundo Rodríguez Quilichini, who three days earlier had been appointed by Governor Wanda Vázquez as coordinator of the medical ‘task force’.
During that call, Rodríguez Quilichini passed the phone to Mabel Head, the former Chief of Health personnel who was already serving as the liaison between the ‘task force’ and La Fortaleza. After that conversation, Castro Ortiz said, Cabeza asked him by text message to send in writing the information of the tests he was offering.
According to the owner of Castro Business, all negotiations with Health were made through the former assistant secretary of the Health Department Adil Rosa.
Although it was not until March 25 that the purchase order was issued, the day before the then interim secretary of Health, Concepción Quiñones de Longo, I had advanced Castro Ortiz to proceed with the delivery efforts. However, at the insistence of the legislators, Castro Ortiz maintained that he could not guarantee that the person who had given him these instructions by telephone was Quiñones de Longo.
The businessman said he purchased the 50,000 rapid tests at a cost per unit of $ 11.10, which would have earned him $ 95,000.
However, and despite the fact that the purchase order provides that the Department of Health would pay the entire price in advance, Castro Ortiz assured that he has not yet received a penny.
“I will not continue to insist until this process is finished. The emergency is there and occupy the department so that I am paid an amount that we do not consider important, although other people may consider it important, I prefer that the department come out of the emergency and then work with the requests, “said Castro Ortiz.
Castro Business also reached a preliminary agreement to supply 100 fans to the Health Department for a price of $ 2.2 million, but, according to the deponent, that purchase did not materialize due to the slow pace of the agency.
In statements before the CPI, Castro Ortiz indicated that in the United States he had sold over 12 million rapid tests.
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