January 9, 2024
HÀ NỘI — Prosecutors in the Việt Á COVID-19 test kit case have recommended a 19-20 year prison sentence for former Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long on charges of receiving bribes.
In the prosecutor’s recommended indictment for the 38 defendants in the case, former Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngọc Anh and former Deputy Minister Phạm Công Tạc were suggested to receive three to four years of imprisonment for violating regulations on the management and use of State assets, causing loss and waste.
Former Hải Dương Provincial Party Committee Secretary Phạm Xuân Thăng was recommended to serve five to six years in prison for abusing his position and power while performing official duties.
The most severe sentence recommendation was 30 years for the former General Director of the Việt Á Company, Phan Quốc Việt, on charges of giving bribes and violating bidding regulations, resulting in serious consequences.
Among the six defendants prosecuted for receiving bribes, former Minister Long received the most money from the Việt Á Company, totaling US$2.25 million.
The Supreme Procuracy accused Long of unlawfully aiding the Việt Á Company in obtaining the Ministry of Health’s approval to register the test kits for circulation at a price 3.5 times higher than their actual value.
Subordinates repeatedly reported to Long that the Việt Á Company did not qualify for a license, the price was unreasonable, and the raw materials for producing test kits exhibited signs of violations. They suggested that the registration be withdrawn.
However, Long did not fulfill his responsibility and instead continued to create favourable conditions for the Việt Á Company.
Former Minister Anh and former Deputy Minister Tạc were responsible for monitoring, managing, and organising the test kit research project.
The two were fully aware that the ownership of the research results belonged to the State, yet they engaged in illegal acts to assist the Việt Á Company in appropriating the research results as its private property.
They were accused of being aware that, after obtaining the license, the company would engage in commercial production in violation of the law, yet they failed to take any action or measures to prevent or address it.
Tạc even chaired a press conference about the Việt Á test kit, and Anh signed a decision to reward the company.
The Supreme Procuracy accused both men of causing a loss of VNĐ18.98 billion ($783,200), which was funds allocated by the State for the research project.
Both individuals received money from Việt Á, with Anh receiving $200,000.
In the impeachment, the Procuracy asserted that amid the nation’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, certain high-ranking officials collaborated with businesses to secure personal gains.
The defendants unlawfully converted the test kit from the State’s property into Việt Á’s possession, reaping notably substantial illicit profits and eroding public confidence.
Throughout the case resolution process, Long was evaluated to have sincerely confessed and expressed remorse.
Due to his notable achievements in his professional capacity, the Ministry of Health recommended a reduction in his penalty.
Furthermore, he voluntarily returned the entire bribe amount of $2.25 million.
Former Minister Anh also contributed VNĐ4 billion ($164,900) to address the consequences.
This case marks the first instance where three former members of the Party Central Committee, including Long, Anh, and Thăng, have been brought to trial.
Earlier, during the interrogation, Long consistently asserted that he did not request, propose, or insist on Việt providing him with money.
However, Long’s former secretary, Nguyễn Huỳnh, testified that Long recommended he reach out to Việt with a message indicating “preparing money for work.”
Huỳnh received $2 million from Việt, as suggested by Long, and promptly transferred it to him.
Concerning the Việt Á Company, Việt corroborated Huỳnh’s statement.
Each time Huỳnh proposed providing money, he indicated that “Long needs to take care of work.”
When Việt had to offer bribes, he converted the Vietnamese currency into dollars. — VNS