UAE royal 'given exclusive rights' to sell Russian vaccine
Exclusive rights to sell Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine granted to an Emirati royal has led buyers in poorer countries to pay massive premiums in order to secure much-needed doses, an investigative report has revealed.
Documents obtained by The Moscow Times shed light on the murky ramifications of a deal between Russia's sovereign wealth fund and Aurugulf, a newly formed UAE-based company closely connected to Emirati royalty.
The report, which is based on interviews with officials and vaccine buyers, shows that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) allegedly granted Aurugulf exclusive rights to sell and distribute the flagship Russian shot, through RDIF’s subsidiary, Human Vaccines.
Vaccine buyers, including the governments of Ghana and Guyana, were allegedly forced to deal with a low-ranking royal middleman, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al-Maktoum, appointed by Aurugulf as their distribution and marketing agent in a number of countries.
Dalmook, identified by analysts as a lower-tier royal, is known to have "a strong network across Africa and has done a lot of work in Angola and Ghana before", according to Patrick Lord, commercial director for business intelligence firm Diligencia.
The report reveals how Dalmook and the UAE-based firm allegedly demanded that their clients pay up to more than double Russia’s advertised price.
Russia had agreed to provide EU members Slovakia and Hungary – both of which are in direct agreement with RDIF’s Human Vaccine subsidiary – at $9.95 a single dose or $19.90 for both.
On the other hand, Aurugulf allegedly charged the Ghanian government $19 for a single shot, allowing the Emirati company to make $30 million in profits, according to the report.
While the scope of Russia’s agreement with Aurugulf and in exactly which countries RDIF granted the company exclusive rights are unclear, Dalmook is directly backed by Moscow to sell Sputnik V across the world, industry figures told the Russian publication.
In two deals involving private healthcare companies in Lebanon and Pakistan, the Aurugulf-linked investment firm Chimera Investments was also involved, the report alleged.
In those countries, private firms leapt at the chance to get a vaccine to circumvent sluggish national rollouts and delays to the WHO’s Covax vaccine sharing programme.
One month after Lebanon authorised the use of Sputnik V, Jaques Sarraf, honorary Russian consul in Lebanon and chairman of the Malia Group conglomerate, struck a deal with Chimera in March, for one million doses and agreed on a delivery schedule until August.
But by July, Sarraf said he received 80,000 of those doses, with Chimera telling him last week that they did not know when they would be able to send the next shipment.
In Pakistan, local supplier AGP is in legal proceedings after selling its first batches to private clinics and is battling with the government over what price the remaining jabs can be sold for.
It paid Chimera $22.50 for each of dose of its first shipment of 50,000, over twice Russia’s advertised selling price, and listed the private office of Sheikh Dalmook al-Maktoum as the supplier.
Chimera Investments is a subsidiary of Royal Group, a sprawling conglomerate run by Sheihk Tahnoon bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security advisor and brother of the ruler of the UAE.
Royal Group is also one of two entities controlling Aurugulf, which was set up two months after Sputnik V was authorised in Russia, according to company registry data.
While the revelation point to Russia's efforts to curry favour with Emiratis, Ilya Shumalov, head of Transparency International in Russia, believed that it could be part of an attempt by Moscow to protect itself from "the reputational risks linked to producing and selling a major vaccine across the world".