Thirty thousand ‘Dutch-made’ COVID-19 rapid antibody tests purchased by the Georgian Government were actually relabelled tests produced in China, oc-media.org investigated. Doubts have also been raised about whether the accuracy of the tests, sold by Dutch biotechnology firm Inzek, match Inzek’s claims.
On 15 April, TBC Bank gifted 5,000 of the tests, marketed under the name Biozek, to the Georgian government. On 24 April, the Health Ministry purchased 30,000 additional tests for ₾930,000 ($290,000) through a simple procurement from Georgian medical importer Solemart.
In an annexe to the procurement order, Deputy Health Minister Giorgi Tsotslokauri wrote that the tests provided by TBC had been evaluated positively by the National Centre for Disease Control.
The Georgian Government procurement order states that the manufacturer of the tests was Inzek International Trading, the Netherlands.
However, an investigation by journalists from investigative platform the OCCRP and partners including Dutch investigative outlet Investico, discovered that the Biozek tests were actually relabelled tests produced by a Chinese firm under the name Alltest.
When confronted with the allegations, Inzek CEO Zeki Hamid admitted that the tests were made in China.
‘The party in China is a really professional manufacturer and they have official certificates’, the OCCRP quoted him as saying.
‘Asked why the tests were promoted as Dutch-made on the website, Hamid said, “Maybe there is one word wrong. Maybe we should correct that.” The website was changed the following day, April 29, to remove the claim’, the OCCRP wrote.
The Biozek tests were reportedly distributed through a network of sellers globally. In a phone conversation with the OCCRP, a representative of Swiss company Spring Healthcare, Wasay Bhatti, mentioned that ‘even the box said [the tests] were made in the Netherlands’.
Spring Healthcare supplied the tests to a clinic in Macedonia where a patient who tested negative died of COVID-19 three days later.
At least 350 of the tests were also brought to Azerbaijan, by Baku based cultural organisation the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre.
‘Less accurate than claimed’
Journalists in the Netherlands and other countries have also called into question the claimed accuracy of the tests.
According to the OCCRP, the Alltest test ‘has been found in some independent trials to be less accurate than claimed.’
‘The UK government reportedly cancelled a multi-million-dollar order for Alltest kits after a review led by Oxford University found that Alltest and another Chinese brand failed to meet basic standards for accuracy’, the report said.
Dutch newspaper Trouw cited two studied which found the clinical trial data insufficient for Inzek to claim ‘Biozek rapid test has a 98% score for IgG and 96% for IgM’ as is written on the company’s website.
Inzek has denied the accusations that the test was less accurate than claimed, stating that ‘Platform Investico and Newspaper Trouw have not done proper research on the product Biozek’. They accused them of relying on the opinions of just two studies; the company said they were pursuing legal action.
A spokesperson for the Georgian Ministry of Health told OC Media they were not aware of the allegations.
The Georgian importer of Biozek tests, Solemart, insisted that the tests were manufactured in the Netherlands.
Solemart’s founder and director, Zurab Tukvadze, told OC Media that this was not the first time they had partnered with Inzek, which he described as a ‘high-level company’.