Trial begins of Honduran Seen as Responsible for Bad COVID-19 Hospitals

The trial of a former executive of a Honduran government agency that was tasked with emergency procurement related to the COVID-19 started on Wednesday over the allegedly fraudulent purchase of seven mobile hospitals that were supposed to improve the health care service in the country.

Marco BogránMarco Bográn (C), the then executive director of Inversión Estratégica de Honduras (INVEST-H) - the unit that was tasked with the emergency procurement, is suspected to be responsible for the purchase of the hospitals that turned out to be not only overvalued, but also useless for treating COVID-19 patients. (Photo: Ministerio Público, Honduras)Marco Bográn, the then executive director of Inversión Estratégica de Honduras (INVEST-H) - the unit that was tasked with the emergency procurement, is suspected to be responsible for the purchase of the hospitals that turned out to be not only overvalued, but also useless for treating COVID-19 patients. The second-hand equipment was old and in poor condition, as OCCRP reported.

According to the Public Ministry, the purchase turned out to be "a fiasco and contributed to the tragic balance of thousands of deaths." The ministry added that the acquisition of the hospitals had caused "enormous damage to health and public property" and that it will provide more than 70 pieces of evidence in the trial.

In March and April 2020, INVEST-H, headed by Bográn, and Alex Alberto Moraes, the then administrative manager of this unit, bought these hospitals for more than US$ 47 million from the also accused Axel G. López, the legal representative of HospitalesMoviles.com and ELMED Medical Systems INC - the company chosen by the Honduran government to supply its mobile hospitals. The entire sum was paid in advance.

Although ELMED's website states it offers "mobile hospitals, clinics and mobile solutions," trade data show that the company has no history of selling these types of products.

Personnel from the INVEST-H Procurement Department, now witnesses for the Public Ministry, warned about the danger of the purchase because they did not have enough information about the supplier. Honduran authorities claimed the company did not have the technical capacity to build, manufacture and equip this type of hospital.

The acquisition, said the Public Ministry, was made in violation of the law - without quality guarantees and without prior authorization from the INVEST-H Board of Directors.

The Public Ministry accused López of two crimes of fraud and has an arrest warrant with an international red alert.