Former pharma firm exec may face death penalty

Nguyen Minh Hung, 41, former chairman and general director of Vietnamese pharmaceutical firm VN Pharma, could face the death penalty for trading in fake cancer drugs.

Former pharma firm exec may face death penalty
Nguyen Minh Hung (R, 2), former chairman and general director of Vietnamese pharmaceutical firm VN Pharma, appears at his trial in 2017

The Supreme People’s Procuracy has issued its second indictment, charging 12 people with peddling fake cancer treatments, based on the 1999 Penal Code. The individuals could be sentenced to 20 years, life imprisonment or capital punishment, reported Thanh Nien newspaper.

Founded in October 2011, VN Pharma was led by then-chairman and general director Hung, according to the indictment.

In 2012, he learned that the local market had a strong demand for cancer drugs, so he raised the issue with Vo Manh Cuong, 41, then-director of H&C International Trading Shipping Co., Ltd. The duo decided to import a cancer drug, the H-Capita 500mg caplet, from Canada-based producer Helix Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The Canadian firm could not provide any information on the drug, so Hung, Cuong and 10 others commissioned a set of fake documents to apply for a license from the Vietnam Drug Administration (VDA), under the Ministry of Health, to import 9,300 packs of the drug, which later turned out to be fake drug.

When the shipment arrived, the VDA grew suspicious of apparent irregularities and referred the case to the police in August 2014.

Investigations revealed that Cuong of H&C had purchased the medicine from a Filipino trader, identified only as Raymuldo, at US$18 per pack. He later sold it to Hung for US$27 per pack.

The investigation also found the batch had been stamped in India and then shipped to Singapore before being transported to Vietnam.

However, bar codes and other indicators on the medicine packaging showed that the drug had not been registered in any country, and all certificates, including the names of the sellers, were fake.

 

The Ministry of Health later found that the medicine contained 97% capecitabine, a low-quality ingredient that is unsuitable for human consumption. The batch was seized before it reached the market.

The license for trading in medicines and medical materials in Vietnam had been granted to Helix Canada, but the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security later confirmed that Helix Canada was a fake firm, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had found no evidence of the company at its registered address.

This means the origin of the H-Capital 500mg caplet imported by VN Pharma is unknown.

According to prosecutors, the smuggled drug batch was worth over US$251,000, but its value was inflated to nearly US$572,000, resulting in a difference of some US$321,000 for illegal gain among the accused.

Prosecutors also asked investigators to look into the VDA officials who had approved the set of fake documents. They may be charged with negligence leading to serious consequences.

During the first hearing in 2017, the HCMC People’s Court sentenced Hung and Cuong to 12 years in prison for smuggling.

Seven other defendants were given noncustodial sentences of up to five years for counterfeiting the seals and documents of organizations and agencies and for smuggling.

However, the HCMC Superior People’s Court later overturned the entire verdict, demanded a new investigation and suggested looking into a number of suspects. SGT

 
 
 
 
 
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