An apparent deal surrounding the “purchase” of COVID-19 vaccines allegedly for the Barbados Government is at the crux of legal action recently filed in United States law courts involving millions of dollars and a well known Barbadian businessman.
However, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has denied any dealings with, or knowledge of, the multi-million dollar operation intending to secure vaccines for use in Barbados. The legal papers name local, prominent businessman Mark Maloney as the one behind the intended purchase.
Last Friday, Radical Investments Limited (RIL), a company formed in St Lucia with principal place of business in Barbados and whose principal is named as Maloney, filed a lawsuit claiming to have been “deceptively” lured into an “elaborate” US$10.2 million scam for one million “non-existent” doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through Floridian company Good Vibrations.
US court documents obtained by Barbados TODAY indicate that Radical Investments was “authorized” by Barbados’ Ministry of Health and Wellness to procure vaccines on its behalf, “for the purpose of vaccinating nearly 300,000 citizens of the island of Barbados”.
The documents also claim that half a dozen defendants were involved in the massive scam that included the provision of false statements to the Prime Minister of Barbados.
When contacted on Tuesday morning, however, Minister Bostic said: “I don’t know anything about this one” in response to numerous questions on the matter. Calls and messages to Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn went unanswered and efforts to reach Maloney were unsuccessful.
Court documents from the West Palm Beach Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida however allege that a Trinidadian woman residing in the U.S by the name of Cheryl Chamley, convinced Maloney that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Good Vibrations, Alex Lee Moore “had the ability to secure COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca which Moore would be able to source and deliver to RIL for the purpose of vaccinating the nearly 300,000 citizens of the island of Barbados”.
The price for the vaccines was set at US$10.2 million. A commission of $2 million was to be paid to Good Vibrations upon delivery of the vaccines to RIL in Barbados.
Moore then supplied documents purporting to be invoices from AstraZeneca, which was a necessary condition for the funds to be released and provided various reasons explaining why seemingly routine matters of due diligence, like the provision of account information for AstraZeneca, could not be fulfilled.
“Moore ultimately produced two letters which purported to confirm that Moore and Good Vibrations had the capacity to enter into the transaction for the sale of AstraZeneca vaccines,” the correspondence added.
One of the letters was allegedly from a DS Law Group and executed by a Charles Z Stein and cited contracts for the right to sell AstraZeneca, irrevocable purchase orders, and letters of attestation, as evidence that Good Vibrations had been involved in the medical supply and distribution business and had negotiated contracts to sell AstraZeneca products, the court document disclosed.
Around April 27, the Barbadian company released US$10.2 million based on assurances received from Stein and court documents indicating that another company, Prestige Pegasus LLC was a “necessary intermediary” to facilitate the transaction.
In direct contradiction to the agreement, Stein paid US$2 million to Prestige; US$4.2 to Good Vibrations and Moore as well as US$485,000 to a foreign freight company, RDS Cargo Group DWC LLC totalling US $6,685,000.
According to the court file, on April 27, 2021, RIL’s attorney demanded wire transfer confirmation of the agreed US$10.2 million transaction to Prestige, which Stein was unable to provide, claiming that he did not print the confirmation page and was automatically logged out of the account after the transfer was completed.
By late May, the vaccines still had not been provided and Moore allegedly informed Maloney that a company called Serum Pharma Ltd. could provide a confirmation letter to the Prime Minister of Barbados stating that AstraZeneca had been overwhelmed by orders, but would make the Barbados vaccines a top priority.
“However, despite voluminous and repeated calls with the Ministry of Health in Barbados, between Moore, Coley and Serum Pharma, it became clear that neither Moore, nor Good Vibrations, Coley or Prestige had the legal capacity to enter into a contract to supply AstraZeneca vaccines, despite their insistence for months that they in fact would be able to deliver them,” the complaint added. Coley is said to be the principal of Prestige Brands.
Serum Pharma, after reviewing correspondence between Moore and the Prime Minister later claimed they had “zero affiliation” with Moore or the purchase and sale agreement sent to Barbados’ Prime Minister and instead asked to contract directly with RIL.
After failing to strike a deal with Serum, RIL then reached out to the British High Commission inquiring whether or not AstraZeneca had actually allocated 1,000,000 doses of vaccines to Barbados and whether or not Serum Pharma was legitimate. It was then that the British, after reportedly speaking directly with AstraZeneca, confirmed that not even Serum Pharma had a relationship with the vaccine manufacturer.
“After this final setback, RIL made the decision to cease its quest to obtain vaccines and sought a return of the funds from Stein,” the court document added.
“As of the date of filing of this Complaint, RIL has been returned approximately $5.4 million of its initial deposit, leaving approximately $6.7 million in arrears. RIL has been unable to obtain the funds transferred out of the IOLTA account by Stein. To be more specific, RIL has not returned funds distributed to Defendents Moore, Good Vibrations and Prestige/Coley. In addition, RIL has not been returned funds in the amount of $485,000.00 which were disbursed to RDS, a foreign shipping company.”
Good Vibrations, Moore, Prestige, Coley, Stein, DS Law Group and RDS have all been named defendants in the RIL’s complaint and Maloney’s company is represented by Miami-based Attorney Gerardo Vazquez, Esq. of Vazquez and Associates.
The unfolding suit has raised suspicion on the local political front.
On Tuesday, President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Verla De Peiza declared that recent developments were causing alarm among “right-thinking” Barbadians.
“We are calling on the Government of the day, in the interest of transparency, to explain, verify or deny… the breaking news coming out of the United States of America regarding a lawsuit by an agency company, fronted by businessman Mark Maloney on behalf of the Government of Barbados and involving millions of dollars lost in an alleged vaccine scam,” DePeiza declared.
“If these stories are correct, then we need to have an explanation in the shortest possible time by the Government of Barbados,” the DLP president concluded.