Company Officials Face Accusations in HIV Blood Scandal
BERLIN (AP) _ Two detained managers of a blood company faced accusations today that they deliberately failed to test blood supplies for the AIDS virus in an effort to maximize profits.
Parliament agreed to set up a special panel to look into the scandal, which erupted Oct. 3 with accusations that health officials had covered up 373 cases in which patients received HIV-contaminated blood in the 1980s.
The scandal is one of the worst to hit Germany’s health system since World War II, and could damage Chancellor Helmut Kohl in next year’s elections. A similar scandal in France contributed to the Socialist government’s fall.
The latest allegations involve a firm accused of deliberately avoiding legal requirements to test every blood donation as recently as 1992 and 1993.
Officials raided and closed the company, UB Plasma in Koblenz, a city on the Rhine River about 60 miles south of Cologne.
Late Thursday, police arrested the company’s manager and co-owner, Ulrich Kleist, and his deputy, Bernhard Bentzien. They were to appear before a judge today to face allegations of fraud and violation of pharmaceutical law.
Ullrich Galle, social affairs minister in Rhineland-Palatinate state in southwestern Germany, said the practices of UB Plasma were ″criminal and marked by unbelievable profiteering.″
Koblenz Prosecutor Norter Weise said UB Plasma handled about 7,000 blood donations since the end of 1992 but performed only 2,500 test procedures. It also illegally pooled blood from different donors for the tests, he said.
Officials said UB Plasma saved about $6,500 with the illegal procedures.
At least 400 German hemophiliacs have died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome contracted from blood supplies tainted with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.