Sunday , May 26 2024

Former deputy director of Việt Á Company admits bribery in COVID-19 kit test scandal


Vũ Đình Hiệp, former deputy director of Việt Á Company, escorted to court by two policemen. — Photo 

HÀ NỘI — The former deputy director of Việt Á Company Vũ Đình Hiệp pleaded guilty to the charges of bribing government officials to win contracts with Centres for Disease Control (CDCs), Hà Nội’s People Court was told on Thursday.

He admitted that he paid government officials to have Việt Á chosen as the winning bidder to provide testing kits to CDCs.

Hiệp even told the court that he would often carry large amounts of cash with him, sometimes up to US$300,000, to bribe people whenever Phan Quốc Việt, former general director of Việt Á Company, told him to do so.

He paid over $1.3 million to CDC officials in Hải Dương, Hà Giang, Nam Định, and Sơn La provinces.

Phạm Xuân Thăng, former secretary of Hải Dương Province’s Party Committee, admitted taking kickbacks to make Việt Á an exclusive supplier of testing kits and medical equipment to the locality. 

“I received $100,000 from Phan Quốc Việt and around $75,000 from Phạm Duy Tuyến, former director of Hải Dương CDC,” said Thăng.

He claimed that he did not pick Việt Á himself but by the recommendation from the former minister of health Nguyễn Thanh Long, who is charged with taking $2.25 million from the company.

Phạm Duy Tuyến admitted receiving more than $1.1 million from Việt Á but he thought it was just “profit-sharing”, not bribery. He said picking Việt Á as an exclusive medical supplier was the instruction from Thăng. 

He signed four supply contracts with the company, which amounted to over $6 million. 

“Việt Á gave me no money in the first contract but offered to ‘share profits’ with me in the later. I thought it was not illegal to do so but I was wrong,” said Tuyến.

The court heard that after taking the money, he paid Thăng about $75,000 and Phạm Mạnh Cường, former director of Hải Dương Provincial Department of Health, $287,000. He also shared $73,800 among his CDC subordinates. 

Chu Ngọc Anh, former minister of science and technology, admitted that his approval of Việt Á’s participation in the research team in charge of developing COVID-19 testing kits was against the law. 

Regarding the charge of taking bribes, he said he received a small gift from Phan Quốc Việt but he was unaware of the $200,000 put in the gift. Upon discovering the money, he tried to return it to Việt but was arrested before he could do so.

“I knew taking money from a company is illegal, so I decided to return it to Việt after my business trip. Unfortunately, that opportunity never comes,” Anh told the court.

Nguyễn Thanh Long, former minister of health, admitted being too hasty in granting the production licence to Việt Á but denied showing favouritism towards the company.

He claimed that he took money from Việt Á because the company offered it to him voluntarily, insisting he didn’t ask for it. 

“I instructed Nguyễn Minh Tuấn, former director of Medical Equipment and Construction (Ministry of Health), to grant a six-month license to Việt Á,” said Long.

He also claimed that after the license, Phan Quốc Việt tried to seek favour from him but he stood to the rules.

The trial, which is due to end later this month, continues. — VNS


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