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An Italian court accuses a high-ranking WHO official of lying about the report

An Italian court accuses a high-ranking WHO official of lying about the report

sAccording to prosecutors in Bergamo, Italy, former WHO Deputy Director-General Ranieri Guerra is under investigation for allegedly making false statements to prosecutors after he volunteered for questioning in November.

Ranieri Guerra was the liaison between the World Health Organization and the Italian government, after the trans-alpine country became an epicenter of the Covid-19 virus in Europe last year, according to the Associated Press.

According to the Italian channel SkyTG 24, Guerra was “shocked and bitter” at the development of this case.

Prosecutors are investigating the high number of COVID-19 deaths in Bergamo and whether Italy’s lack of preparedness for the pandemic has played a decisive role.

The investigation sought to include the WHO report on Italy’s response to the new Coronavirus, which revealed that the Italian government had not updated its pandemic preparedness plan since 2006.

The World Health Organization withdrew this report from its website on May 14, the day after it was published and has not made it available again.

The document’s disappearance indicates the WHO is removing it to protect the Italian government from criticism and liability.

Ranieri Guerra was a senior official of the Italian Ministry of Health between 2014 and 2017, when the pandemic preparedness plan should have been updated to conform to European Union standards.

When the World Health Organization was asked whether Guerra or the Italian government had interfered with the release of the report, it replied that the Copenhagen office had removed it due to “inaccuracy of the facts.”

According to documents collected by prosecutors in Bergamo, Guerra brokered the withdrawal of the report, due to the inconvenience caused by the Italian government.

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The evidence included private conversations on the WhatsApp social network between Guerra and a senior Italian public health official, Silvio Brusaferro.

In a letter, on May 14, 2020, Guerra wrote to Brusaferro: “I went to Tedros and the document was removed,” referring to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO press office, in response to an email sent today to the Associated Press, denied that Tedros was involved in withdrawing the report and insisted that the Copenhagen office made the decision.

He adds that “the director general did not participate in preparing, publishing, or withdrawing the report,” stressing that it had been deleted “because it contained errors and inconsistencies” and because it was published prematurely.

Prosecutors stress that the facts belie Guerra’s statements during interrogation, concluding that “Guerra personally acted to remove the report from the WHO website”.

The letters show that Guerra sought to get one of the report’s lead authors, Francesco Zampon, to alter the data in the report to indicate that Italy updated its plan to combat the pandemic in 2016, when it did not.

Zampon refused to do so and initiated an internal denunciations, alleging that Guerra tried to pressure him to change the data.

Guerra defended himself claiming that the report had been withdrawn due to inaccuracies in the facts and that he did not intervene to remove it, but only to correct errors.

He added that the Italian pandemic control plan for 2006 is still in effect and does not need to be updated while he was in charge of that region at the Ministry of Health.

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The former WHO leader is said to have ignored the organization’s legal advice, which said that WHO officials are not obligated to respond to interrogation requests from Italian prosecutors, through diplomatic immunity as UN officials.

Guerra accepted to be questioned in his personal capacity and as an informant, not as a suspect.

However, prosecutors eventually subjected him to investigation for “false statements”.

DYMC // RBF

Lusa / The End

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