HHS Probed EcoHealth Over Alleged 'Major Fraud' Against US, Emails Show
Authored by Eva Fu via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
The Department of Health and Human Services’ watchdog had briefly probed EcoHealth Alliance, a New York non-profit that has collaborated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, over alleged “major fraud against the United States,” newly released emails show.
The four-month-long probe, which opened in September 2020, centered around an allegation that “the COVID 19 virus was generated in the China [sic] with the assistance of an NIH [National Institutes of Health] Grant.”
The Office of Investigations of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed the investigation in an email with the subject line “Grant Information Review [Redacted]” and dated Dec. 3, 2020, according to redacted copies of the documents obtained by the U.S. Right to Know, a public health advocacy group.
A tip from an outside source had prompted the office to open the case, a special agent explained in an attached memorandum to Ashley Sanders, an investigative officer at the NIH. Another correspondence issued in January 2021 confirmed that EcoHealth Alliance, which for years worked with a high-level Wuhan lab to conduct risky bat coronavirus research, was one of the targets. The name of the other party was redacted.
Such allegations, if true, would constitute a violation of the U.S. federal law, Title 18 of U.S. Code §1031, “major fraud against the United States,” according to the memorandum. Under this law, anyone who tried “to obtain money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises” in grant, contract, subcontract, or other forms of federal assistance valuing $1 million or more could receive a $1 million fine or up to 10 years in prison, or both.
The office referred the case to its special investigative branch on Sept. 9, 2020, and agents reviewed the allegation and met with NIH representatives on the same day, the memorandum said. Details of the meeting and a description of the subsequent step taken by the agents on Sept. 29 were redacted.
The investigators closed the probe on Jan. 11, 2021. In a letter informing Sanders of the decision, a special agent said they were asked to support efforts “regarding a high-profile situation that involved [redacted] HHS Grantee that had ties to the COVID 19 virus.” The reason for such a move was entirely redacted except for the word “developments,” although the agent noted the agency “reserves the right to reopen the investigation if any new, relevant information is discovered relating to this incident.”
The revelation of the existence of the investigation came as NIH, which is overseen by HHS, approved millions in new grants to EcoHealth for studies in Asia into novel viruses that could infect humans and cause an outbreak.
The NIH in August terminated funding for EcoHealth’s Chinese partner, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), citing failed efforts to gain lab entries and other records relating to the facility’s experiments subject of the grant.
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