Saigon pharma exec gets 17 years in jail for cancer drug scam

By Hai Duyen   October 1, 2019 | 05:01 am PT
Saigon pharma exec gets 17 years in jail for cancer drug scam
Nguyen Minh Hung, former CEO of VN Pharma, stands trial in HCMC for trading fake medicines, October 1, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
The former CEO of a private pharmaceutical company in HCMC was sentenced to 17 years in prison Tuesday for smuggling fake cancer medicines.

A five-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City handed down the jail term to Nguyen Minh Hung, 41, former CEO of VN Pharma, after finding him guilty of trading in fake goods, and in this case, counterfeit medicines.

The court heard that Hung and his staff at VN Pharma had been importing H-Capita since 2013, which they advertised as a cancer drug from Canada. In May 2014, VN Pharma won a contract from HCMC’s Health Department to supply cancer drugs.

In September 2014, the Ministry of Health asked police to clarify the origin of H-Capita, and violations at the company were subsequently uncovered.

The firm’s customs declarations said the drug was manufactured by Helix Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Canada, but police later found that the company did not exist, prosecutors charged.

Documents certifying the drug's quality, including those issued in Canada and the signature and stamp of the Vietnamese Embassy in Canada turned out to be fake, they said.

Hung was found guilty of instructing staff to forge other documents and signatures under the name of Helix Canada.

The drug has been found to be manufactured in India. Tests conducted by health authorities confirmed that up to 97 percent of them contained low-quality capecitabine, which should not be used on humans.

Fortunately, the product never made it onto the market.

Vo Manh Cuong, director of H&C International Trading Shipping Company in HCMC, received 20 years in jail for importing the drugs for VN Pharma.

Vo Manh Cuong, the director of H&S shipping company at the court in HCMC on Tuesday. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

Vo Manh Cuong, director of H&C International Trading Shipping Company, at a trial in HCMC, October 1, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

Hung and Cuong admitted to the violations they were charged with.

In 2017, Hung and his accomplices were taken to court for the first time for the charge of smuggling and forging paperworks.

They received 12 years in jail each but the Supreme People’s Court later overturned the verdict, saying the investigation had missed several important details.

Later, apart from Hung and Cuong, three more people were investigated on the same charge of producing and trading in fake medicines.

At the court on Tuesday, Nguyen Tri Nhat and Ngo Anh Quoc, former deputy CEOs of VN Pharma, got 12 and 11 years in jail each.

Other defendants related to the case received between three years of probation to seven years in prison.

Expanding the case to another level, the Ministry of Public Security is investigating the Drug Administration of Vietnam under the Ministry of Health for displaying a lack of responsibility that had "serious consequences."

The department bears responsibility for the import of fake medicines into Vietnam, the court said.

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