Nguyễn Minh Hùng, former general director of VN Pharma, is allegedly the mastermind behind the case involving imports of fake medicine for cancer treatment. — VNA/VNS Hà Chung
HCM CITY — The HCM City People’s Court on Monday postponed an appeals trial for defendants allegedly involved in the import of fake medicine for cancer treatment by the Việt Nam Pharma Joint Stock Company (VN Pharma).
At the appeals trial on Monday, 12 defendants and nearly 200 individuals were summoned, but because many of them were absent, the court postponed the trial until March 9.
On October 1, 2019, the HCM City People’s Court sentenced Nguyễn Minh Hùng, former general director of VN Pharma to 17 years in prison, and Võ Mạnh Cường, former director of H&C International Maritime Trading Co., Ltd, to 20 years in prison for “allegedly manufacturing and trading counterfeit medicines”.
Eleven other defendants involved in the case received sentences ranging from three to 20 years.
After the first-instance verdict, defendant Hùng did not appeal. However, defendant Võ Mạnh Cường appealed, saying he did not play a mastermind role as mentioned in the first-instance verdict.
In addition, defendant Phạm Anh Kiệt, former general director of Saigon Pharmaceutical Company (Sapharco), also appealed, saying he was innocent.
However, Kiệt, who did not show up at the appeal on Monday, had requested postponing the appeals trial because of his illness, according to the HCM City People’s Court.
VN Pharma was established in October 2011 with capital of VNĐ25 billion (US$1.07 million), increasing to VNĐ40 billion in 2014. Hùng owns most of the shares.
Since its operation, the company has imported various kinds of drugs.
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.
Hùng 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 has concluded that the H-Capita 500mg batch contained 97 per cent of the active ingredient capecitabine, which is of unknown origin and 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.
The defendants were prosecuted under Clause 4 Article 157 of the Criminal Code with the highest punishment being the death penalty. — VNS