Nguyễn Minh Hùng, former general director of Việt Nam Pharma Joint-Stock Company, at the HCM City People’s Court on Wednesday. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Chung
HCM CITY — The People’s Court in HCM City on Wednesday upheld the verdict handed down at the first-instance trial in a case involving the “manufacturing and trading of counterfeit medicine”.
At the first-instance trial that concluded in October, Nguyễn Minh Hùng, former general director of Việt Nam Pharma Joint Stock Company (VN Pharma), was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and Võ Mạnh Cường, former director of H&C International Maritime Trading Co., Ltd, to 20 years.
Both faced charges of “manufacturing and trading counterfeit medicines for treatment or prevention of diseases” under Article 157 of the Penal Code, according to the city’s People’s Procuracy.
The remaining 10 defendants were sentenced from three to 12 years in prison. Hùng did not appeal after the first-instance trial.
However, seven of the 12 defendants in the case, including Cường, filed an appeal against the verdict reached at the first-instance trial.
Cường said he did not play a mastermind role as mentioned in the first-instance verdict and that he did not know the drugs were counterfeit.
But the city’s People’s Procuracy rejected the contention, saying Cường directly contacted people who made counterfeit drugs and asked for permission to import the batch of fake drugs.
According to the People’s Procuracy, the wrongful acts of the defendants were dangerous to society and the sentence at the first-instance trial was “lawful and appropriate”.
VN Pharma was established in October 2011 with capital of VNĐ25 billion (US$1.075 million), rising 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 that was 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 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.
The Procuracy said Hùng’s actions caused damage of more than VNĐ6 billion (US$255,320) to VN Pharma.
The court on Wednesday also asked the Ministry of Health to examine whether import companies have inflated drug prices to give commissions to doctors to sell the drugs. This has resulted in high prices for imported drugs in Việt Nam, seriously affecting quality of life, especially for the poor.
The court said there were “loopholes” in import-licencing regulations. — VNS