VN Pharma trial: going into appeal

The trial of former VN Pharma officials for smuggling cancer medicine and falsifying documents has come to a conclusion, but it has only produced more questions, with so many unclear issues arising during the proceedings.

As the public is growing curious about many unclear issues at the recent smuggling trial of VN Pharma officials, the People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City has decided to withdraw the case file for a review and decide whether to protest the trial results. Accordingly, in a case where even the charges spark controversies, the Procuracy needs to have a closer look at the nature and actions of the accused.

On August 25, after four days of trial, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court sentenced Nguyen Minh Hung, former chairman and general director of VN Pharma, and Vo Manh Cuong, director of H&C International Marine Trade Co., Ltd., to 12 years of imprisonment on charges of smuggling. The other defendants in the case also received sentences ranging from two years of suspended imprisonment to five years of imprisonment.

According to judge Ung Thi Xuan Huong of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court, since the H-Capita imported by VN Pharma has not been distributed and has not caused very serious damage, according to Article 157(2) of the Vietnamese Criminal Code, 12 years in prison is an appropriate sentence.

Former VN Pharma officials on trial

At a meeting on August 30, judge Huong said that the court was divided over whether the charges should be “smuggling” or “manufacturing and/or trading in fake goods being curative medicines, preventive medicines”.

While Nguyen Minh Hung and VN Pharma falsified documents to import the H-Capita drug, it is unclear if the documents on the drug’s quality were also falsified by him or by the exporter.

Judge Huong noted that it was Hung who requested the Drug Administration Department to retest H-Capita prior to his arrest in 2014, leading to the discovery that the previous test results were falsified. The lack of conclusive evidence available at the trial prevented the court from charging the accused with manufacturing and trading fake drugs.

There is also the question of whether the H-Capita cancer medicine imported by VN Pharma was actually a fake drug.

The Ministry of Health has conducted an inspection and reported that H-Capita actually contains 97 per cent Capecitabine, more than the required standard amount of 93 per cent, which means that H-Capita is not a fake drug, but either a safe-to-use generic drug, or a substandard drug in terms of quality.

However, the falsified documents claiming that H-Capita contains 98.5 per cent Capecitabine still place H-Capita in the broader category of counterfeit drugs. Further review to determine the exact nature of the H-Capita drug in this case was found necessary for more conclusive results.

Three of the nine defendants have filed for appeal, including Vo Manh Cuong who claimed he was only a middle man and had no knowledge of the smuggling and falsification of documents perpetrated by VN Pharma. According to Vietnamnet, Nguyen Minh Hung, the primary defendant accused in the case, said he had no plans to appeal and was content with the sentence.

Huong affirmed that since this is only the trial verdict and some defendants have filed for appeal, the sentences are not enforceable yet. With additional investigation, the court of appeals should be able to consider the case in a more conclusive way, including the role and responsibility of the Drug Administration Department in the matter.

By Trung Nguyen



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