Nguyễn Minh Hùng, former general director of Việt Nam Pharma Joint Stock Company, at the second-instance trial at the HCM City People’s Court yesterday. Photo vnexpress.net
HCM CITY — The former general director of Việt Nam Pharma Joint Stock Company (VN Pharma), the mastermind behind the import of fake medicine for cancer treatment, yesterday pleaded guilty at the second-instance trial at the HCM City People’s Court.
Nguyễn Minh Hùng was one of 12 defendants charged with “allegedly manufacturing and trading counterfeit medicines”.
The other defendants include Võ Mạnh Cường, former director of H&C International Maritime Trading Co., Ltd, and 10 others.
Hùng, 41, told the court that he had created phony documents so that he could import fake cancer drugs for sale.
Hùng said that VN Pharma was established in October 2011 with capital of VNĐ25 billion (US$1.07 million), increasing to VNĐ40 billion in 2014. He owns most of the shares.
Since its operation, the company has imported various kinds of drugs, but Hùng told the court that he could not remember the exact number of times.
From 2013 to 2014, Hùng ordered Cường to buy imported medicine allegedly manufactured by Canada’s Helix Pharmaceuticals Company and supply the drugs to Vietnamese hospitals.
The order included 9,300 boxes of 500mg capsules of H-Capita, a cancer treatment drug. The consignment was worth around VNĐ5.3 billion.
Hùng said he ordered his staff to fake documents related to the drugs and submit them to the Drug Administration of Việt Nam, which operates under the Ministry of Health.
He also faked receipts and payment procedures to acquire import licences from the ministry.
In April 2014, the Drug Administration of Việt Nam questioned the origin of the drugs and decided to inspect the company’s shipments.
The Ministry of Health concluded that the H-Capita 500mg batch contained 97 per cent of the active ingredient capecitabine, which is of unknown origin, of poor quality, and must not be used as a medicine for humans.
In November 2015, the Ministry of Public Security started legal proceedings.
On August 25, 2017, at the first-instance court trial, Hùng and Cường were sentenced to 12 years in prison for “smuggling”.
Seven others were sentenced to between two and five years in jail for smuggling and counterfeiting documents and seals of agencies and organisations.
However, on October 30, 2017, the higher-level People’s Court of HCM City decided to annul all previous judgments as the inspections’ conclusions had many contradictions which were not in accordance with the provisions of the law.
According to the court, charging the defendants with smuggling was inappropriate. The court also asked for further investigation of individuals related to the case.
During the investigation, the defendants said they did not know where the drugs were made.
However, based on the documents collected, the Ministry of Public Security discovered that the imported batch of medicines did not originate from Canada.
At the trial, although nearly 200 individuals were summoned, many of them were absent, including Trương Quốc Cường, deputy health minister who was the director of the ministry’s Drug Administration at the time.
The court trial is expected to last one week. The defendants are being prosecuted under Clause Four Article 157 of the Criminal Code with the highest penalty being the death penalty.
Health ministry accountable
Prior to the second-instance trial, the Ministry of Public Security’s Security Investigation Agency decided to prosecute the criminal case for “lack of responsibility, causing serious consequences” at the ministry’s Drug Administration and relevant agencies.
The Government Inspectorate said the health ministry in charge of medicine management should be held accountable for the scandal, along with the head of the Drug Administration who offered assistance to the minister in the field.
The ministry’s consultancy council and drug appraisers must take responsibility for approving VN Pharma’s seven drug registries and import licences for three types of medicines and a business licence in Việt Nam for Helix Company, according to the inspectorate.
The Government Inspectorate demanded that the Health Ministry take measures to deal with collectives and individuals involved in allowing the import of substandard drugs to the country.
The inspectorate’s conclusion has been transferred to the Central Inspection Committee for the latter to decide on the penalties for any high-level officials under the jurisdiction of the Politburo and the Party Secretariat. — VNS