Wednesday , May 22 2024

38 defendants, including two former ministers, in Việt Á COVID-19 kit test case go on trial

A prosecutor announced the indictment of 38 defendants involved in the Việt Á Case on Wednesday. — VNA/VNS Photo Phạm Kiên

HÀ NỘI — The general director of Việt Á Company and his deputy bribed a number of government officials to obtain licences to sell COVID testing kits at high prices during the pandemic, Hà Nội’s People Court was told yesterday.

The two are among 38 defendants whose trial began in the capital in a case that has gained widespread public condemnation since the wrongdoings were uncovered.

Also on trial are Chu Ngọc Anh, former Minister of Science and Technology, and Nguyễn Thanh Long, former Minister of Health.

Long is accused of accepting $2.25 million in bribes.

Prosecutors told the court General Director of Việt Á Company Phan Quốc Việt and his subordinate, former Deputy General Director Vũ Đình Hiệp, both violated regulations on bidding causing serious damages to the State and committed bribery.

Việt and Hiệp have both already been sentenced to 25 years and six years by Hà Nội’s Military Court for related offences.

According to the indictment, the research on COVID-19 testing kits was assigned to the Military Medical Academy in 2020 with a budget of VNĐ18.9 billion (US$776 million).

Phan Quốc Việt collaborated with Trịnh Thanh Hùng, former Head of the Department of Science and Technology for Economic-Technical Sectors (under the Ministry of Science and Technology) to make Việt Á Company part of the research team.

Chu Ngọc Anh, former Minister of Science and Technology, and Phạm Công Tạc, former Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, approved the participation and assisted the company in claiming patent ownership of the testing kits, which was against the law because the research results were State’s property.

Phan Quốc Việt is accused of paying Anh $200,000, Tạc, $50,000, and Trịnh Thanh Hùng, $350,000.

After Việt applied for a production license, Nguyễn Văn Trịnh, former Assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister, used his influence on the Ministry of Health to help Việt win the bid.

In return, Việt paid him $200,000. He also paid Nguyễn Thanh Long, former Minister of Health, $2.25 million, Nguyễn Huỳnh, former Deputy Director of the Price Management Department of the Drug Administration $164,000, Nguyễn Minh Tuấn, former Director of Medical Equipment and Construction, Ministry of Health, $300,000, and Nguyễn Nam Liên, Nguyễn Nam Liên, former Director of Financial Planning Department, Ministry of Health, $100,000.

When he got the license to mass-produce the testing kits, he continued to bribe many provincial Centres for Disease Control (CDCs) into buying his products at exorbitant prices.

Normally test kits were sold at around VNĐ143,000, but in some cases, Việt was charging three times as much per kit

With over 4.5 million testing kits sold, the State Budget suffered a loss of VNĐ402 billion ($16.5 million), of which VNĐ222 billion came from CDCs in Hải Dương, Bắc Giang, Nghệ An, and Bình Dương.

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thủy, a former employee at the Việt Nam Education Publishing House, and Nguyễn Bạch Thùy Linh, former Director of the SNB Holdings Single-Member LLC, used their influence over people in authority to force a Singaporean company into buying a package of testing kits worth $1 million and gifting it to the Vietnamese Fatherland Front.

Phan Quốc Việt paid the two over $328,000 for their “hard sell.”

Out of all those in the dock, six are accused of taking bribes, including Trịnh Thanh Hùng and Nguyễn Thanh Long; and Nguyễn Huỳnh, former Deputy Director of the Price Management Department of the Drug Administration (under the Ministry of Health).

Chu Ngọc Anh, and Phạm Công Tạc, are accused of “violating regulations on the management of State’s assets to cause great losses.”

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Thủy, and Nguyễn Bạch Thùy Linh, former Director of the SNB Holdings Single-Member LLC, face charges of “using influence over people in authority for personal gains.”

Phạm Tôn Noel Thảo, former Financial Assistant, and Hồ Thị Thanh Thảo, former Treasurer at Việt Á Company, is being prosecuted for charges of “bribery.”

Prosecutors have also brought legal proceedings against Nguyễn Văn Trịnh, former Assistant to Deputy Prime Minister; Phạm Xuân Thăng, former Secretary of Hải Dương Province’s Party Committee; and Phạm Mạnh Dường, former Hải Dương Province’s Department of Health. The three are charged with “abusing position and power while on duty.”

The prosecutors charged the other 21 defendants with “violating regulations on bidding to serious damage”, including three former employees of Việt Á Company -Trần Thị Hồng, Lê Trung Nguyên, Trần Tiến Lực – and many former officials from provincial centres for disease control (CDCs). Defendant Hồng was absent from the court, citing her recent delivery of a child and her ongoing illness.

The trial will take place over the next 20 days. — VNS

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