Former health minister gets 18 years in jail over Covid test kit bribery

By Thanh Lam, Pham Du   January 12, 2024 | 01:39 am PT
Former health minister gets 18 years in jail over Covid test kit bribery
Former Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long (C) at the Hanoi People's Court, Jan. 12, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Former health minister Nguyen Thanh Long was sentenced to 18 years in jail Friday for taking bribes in a major Covid-19 test kit scandal.

Long was accused of receiving bribes worth VND51 billion (US$2.25 million) from Viet A Company to let it sell the kits at inflated prices.

The Hanoi People's Court announced sentences for 37 other people, including people from Viet A, former officials from the health and science ministries as well as former officials from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of many provinces.

Phan Quoc Viet, CEO and chairman of Viet A, received 29 years in jail for giving bribes and bidding violations.

For receiving bribes, Trinh Thanh Hung, a former deputy department head at the Ministry of Science and Technology, was sentenced to 14 years; Nguyen Huynh, former secretary of Long, to nine years; and Pham Duy Tuyen, former director of Hai Duong Province's CDC, 13 years.

Chu Ngoc Anh, former Minister of Science and Technology, received three years for mismanagement of state properties.

Prosecutors said that during the heights of the Covid-19 pandemic, Viet had bribed many officials in the health and science sectors a total of VND82 billion ($3.35 million) so that his company's test kits could be approved for distribution, and price negotiations set the kit's price at VND470,000 each, three times than what it was supposed to be.

Long, Tuyen and Hung received the most bribes.

By the time the case was busted, six million test kits by Viet A have been paid for by the government, totaling to over VND2.25 trillion. Investigators said Viet A had illegally gained VND1.235 trillion in discrepancies between the kits' production costs and actual prices.

Viet was already sentenced to 25 years and Hung 15 years last month in a different trial on how Viet A's test kit had been submitted for licensing as a government's product.

The Health Ministry granted Viet A's test kit license in March 2020 and revoked it in June 2022 after determining that the licensing process did not follow proper protocols.

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