Florida CFO Says China Owes State Financial Restitution from COVID-19 Outbreak

April 30, 2020

Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis has sent a demand letter to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai demanding financial restitution from the Communist Party of China (CPC) for “significant harm to the State of Florida and its residents related to CPC’s incompetent and fraudulent actions in response to the early outbreak of COVID-19,” according to a statement from the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS).

In the letter distributed by DFS, which oversees the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Patronis says his office will review state vendors to identify Chinese owned or controlled businesses that are set to receive a payment from the state. The payments could potentially be withheld to offset costs to the state of Florida.

“I am demanding financial restitution from the CPC for this significant harm to the State of Florida and its residents,” Patronis wrote in the April 24 letter.

Patronis detailed several reasons as his basis for his demand, including:

  • Denying the virus could be transmitted between humans – Chinese officials neglected to report the potential for human-to-human transmission to the World Health Organization for weeks.
    • Silencing whistleblowers – Chinese officials reportedly arrested eight doctors and silenced others from speaking out about the novel contagion as it spread from Wuhan. Additionally, reports have arisen that journalists covering the outbreak in the early stages disappeared.
    • Failing to contain the outbreak – While denying human-to-human transmission, Chinese officials held off on containing the outbreak. Patronis wrote that the Chinese government took no serious steps to contain the outbreak until January 23—after community spread took hold across multiple regions.
    • Withholding personal protective equipment (PPE)–Reports indicate that Chinese officials, began hoarding quality PPE at the same time they were concealing the extent of the outbreak, permitting only defective PPE to be exported to the rest of the world. “This hoarding endangered the lives of health care workers and first responders in the State of Florida and across the world,” the letter states.

Patronis cited widely reported media claims and a lawsuit by the State of Missouri’s against CPC as the basis for his claims.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has caused hardship in Florida and across the globe—death, isolation from sick and dying loved ones, massive unemployment, economic devastation, uncertainty, and billions of dollars in economic losses. The CPC must be held legally responsible,” he said.

Additionally, Patronis noted his office is reviewing two options for recovery of the funds, including: identifying Chinese-owned and controlled companies who have unclaimed property currently in the possession of the State of Florida; and conducting a thorough review of Florida’s vendors to identify Chinese owned or controlled companies set to receive a payment from the State of Florida.

“If such companies are identified, pending payments from the State of Florida may be withheld as necessary to offset the debt CPC owes the people of Florida,” the letter stated.

Patronis said once the information is obtained, DFS will weigh all legal options to “best serve the people of Florida.”

Patronis said DFS will work with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody to “discuss the potential of filing a civil action in Federal Court.”

“As the State’s Chief Financial Officer, I will aggressively protect the fiscal wellbeing of Florida residents and will deploy all available options in this pursuit,” Patronis concluded.

Patronis is also a member of the Reopen Florida Task Force established by DeSantis. Florida news outlets reported earlier this week that DeSantis indicated he may follow the lead of the states of Missouri and Mississippi and sue China over the outbreak, which started in Wuhan, China.

The Missouri lawsuit, filed in federal court by the state’s top lawyer last week, alleges Chinese officials are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians.”

“I saw that Missouri lawsuit,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “I want to see if Florida can be involved in that. You see what a disaster this has caused. It is because of their malevolence, so they had opportunities to deal with this. They didn’t do it — they covered it up.”

Chinese officials have slammed the Missouri lawsuit as “very absurd.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the legal action has “no factual and legal basis at all” and repeated China’s defense of its response to the outbreak, which has largely subsided in the country where it was first detected.

The full letter by CFO Patronis can be viewed on the DFS website.

Topics COVID-19 Florida China Missouri

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