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Vietnam probing alleged $2.2mn in healthcare graft related to US’s Bio-Rad

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security is investigating an alleged bribery case in which U.S.-based Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. reportedly admitted to paying US$2.2 million in bribes to Vietnamese health officials in exchange for contracts to provide medical equipment and chemicals to local hospitals from 2005 to 2009.

A screen capture of the website of U.S-based Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., taken on November 8, 2014 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A screen capture of the website of U.S-based Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., taken on November 8, 2014 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The investigation has been launched at the request made on Wednesday by Vietnamese Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien to verify the bribery purportedly committed by Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., a global provider of life science research and clinical diagnostic products.

According to the conclusion of an investigation released on November 3 by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bio-Rad had paid $7.5 million in bribes to officials in Vietnam, Thailand, and Russia in return for medical supply contracts in these countries.

The bribes paid by Bio-Rad in Vietnam from 2005 to 2009 totaled $2.2 million, according to U.S. media.

The SEC on Monday announced that it had entered into a cease and desist order against Bio-Rad in which the company agreed to pay $40.7 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest in connection with the company’s sales in Russia, as well as in Thailand and Vietnam, according to the FBI’s San Francisco Division.

The Bio-Rad bribery case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Andrew Gentin of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the FBI’s division said.

In talking with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Friday, the Vietnamese health ministry’s chief inspector Dang Van Chinh said the Ministry of Public Security has started its investigation, beginning with meetings with his ministry’s Department of Medical Equipment and Works.

“In order to facilitate the investigation, we have asked this department and the Drug Administration of Vietnam to provide us with lists of hospitals that have purchased medical equipment and biological products from Bio-Rad,” Chinh said.

The Ministry of Health has sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi asking for information related to the alleged graft case, he added.

On Wednesday, Chinh asked all the local departments of health and hospitals under the ministry’s management to report to it by November 15 on the purchases of equipment, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals from Bio-Rad from January 1, 2005 to November 5, 2014.

Bio-Rad has now stopped working in Vietnam, the chief inspector said, adding that the firm previously offered a wide variety of medical devices, chemicals, and proprietary medicinal chemicals to Vietnamese hospitals.