Fact Check: Passing Of Michèle Rivasi Will NOT Affect Investigation Into EU's Coronavirus Vaccine Purchases

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  • от: Lead Stories автор
Fact Check: Passing Of Michèle Rivasi Will NOT Affect Investigation Into EU's Coronavirus Vaccine Purchases Court Review

Will the investigation into the European Union's coronavirus vaccine purchases, centering on the involvement of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, will be discontinued due to the passing of Member of European Parliament (MEP) Michèle Rivasi? No, that's not true: The inquiry is conducted by an institution rather than an individual. While Rivasi played a crucial role in overseeing the contracts, her demise will not impede the institutional investigation led by the European Public Prosecutor's Office.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok on December 4, 2023. The title (translated from Bulgarian to English by Lead Stories staff) read:

There is no one to investigate von der Leyen and the vaccine contract anymore

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-12-12 214729.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Dec 12 19:47:32 2023 UTC)

Social media posts in Bulgaria have been sharing the false claim that after the death of MEP Michèle Rivasi, who initiated the investigation against von der Leyen and Pfizer, no one is going to investigate Von der Leyen and the vaccine contract anymore, including this example from a post (archived here) on Facebook on December 5, 2023, with a translated caption that reads:

The Nazi weasel Ursula von der Leyen won't shed her skin, despite of this violent temporary solution to her problems...🤐🤮😡

Screenshot 2023-12-12 223416.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Dec 12 20:34:18 2023 UTC)

On October 14, 2022, the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) opened an investigation into the EU's coronavirus vaccine purchases, with a particular focus on the role of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The investigation was announced due to high public interest, but no further details have been made public at this stage.

Michèle Rivasi, the Green MEP, was indeed supportive of the investigation. She pushed for the SMS exchanges between von der Leyen and Bourla to be made public. She also played a role in a proposal to potentially exclude Pfizer officials from the European Parliament. Despite her passing on November 29, 2023, the investigation continues as it's carried out by an institution, not an individual. The EPPO is an independent EU body responsible for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes, including fraud, money laundering and corruption.

The European Ombudsman began an inquiry in September 2021 that identified maladministration in the European Commission's attempts to recover the text messages between von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. These messages could potentially shed light on deals to buy billions of euros worth of COVID-19 vaccines. The Commission argued that text messages are generally "short-lived" and in principle excluded from its record-keeping.

On February 13, 2023, the New York Times filed a lawsuit against the EC over its failure to release the text messages.

The EU's General Court will rule on the case in early 2024, based on the principles of democracy, transparency, privacy and proportionality. The New York Times has a high chance of winning, but the Commission could appeal or invoke technical difficulties to avoid disclosing the texts.

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