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 — Nguyễn Minh Hùng, former general director of Việt Nam Pharma Joint Stock Company (VN Pharma), was sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison by the HCM City People's Court for importing fake medicine for cancer treatment.
Eleven other defendants involved in the case received sentences ranging from three to 20 years.
Võ Mạnh Cường, former director of H&C International Maritime Trading Co., Ltd, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on the same charges as Hùng for “allegedly manufacturing and trading counterfeit medicines”.
Cường said he was aware that the drugs had no clear origin, but still colluded with Hùng who directed his subordinates to provide fake documents to get a licence for import of the drugs, according to the city’s People’s Procuracy.
“Defendant Cường also played an active role in the case along with Hùng to illegally import many 'unknown' drugs to sell,” the city’s People’s Procuracy said.
A week after the first-instance trial of the case, the quality of a batch of 9,300 boxes of 500mg capsules of H-Capita remained controversial.
The Drug Administration of Việt Nam under the Ministry of Health said the batch of drugs had a phony origin of manufacturing, but that the quality had met the standards. However, the HCM City People’s Procuracy said the drugs were fake.
Last week, Hùng pleaded guilty at the second-instance trial at the city’s court.
According to Hùng, VN Pharma was established in October 2011 with capital of VNĐ25 billion (US$1.07 million), rising 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 make fake documents related to the drugs and submit them to the Drug Administration of Việt Nam.
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 inspection conclusions contained many contradictions 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.
However, based on the documents collected, the Ministry of Public Security discovered that the imported batch of medicines did not originate from Canada.
The defendants were prosecuted under Clause Four Article 157 of the Criminal Code with the highest penalty being the death penalty.
The court yesterday also asked the Ministry of Health to review and handle the problem that import companies inflated drug prices to give commissions to doctors in order to sell the drugs.
This resulted in high prices of imported drugs in Việt Nam, seriously affecting the quality of life, especially the poor. The court said there were “loopholes” in the regulations that grant import licences.
Regarding the wrongdoing at the Drug Administration of Việt Nam in licensing VN Pharma to import fake drugs, on September 18, the Ministry of Public Security’s Security Investigation Agency decided to prosecute the case for “lack of responsibility, causing serious consequences”. — VNS