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Hanoi CDC director jailed for 10 years over wrongdoing in COVID-19 equipment bidding

Sunday, December 13, 2020, 11:42 GMT+7
Hanoi CDC director jailed for 10 years over wrongdoing in COVID-19 equipment bidding
Nguyen Nhat Cam, former director of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control, stands his trial at the Hanoi People’s Court on December 12, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre

The former director of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control (Hanoi CDC) has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars for violations related to the purchase of COVID-19 testing equipment.

The Hanoi People’s Court on Saturday imposed the jail term upon Nguyen Nhat Cam, former director of the Hanoi CDC for “violations of bidding regulations that caused serious consequences.”

Nine other defendants were sentenced to between three and 6.5 years in prison for similar offenses.

According to the indictment, the municipal Department of Health previously allocated over VND31 billion (US$1.3 million) to the Hanoi CDC for the procurement of equipment intended to help tackle COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Hanoi CDC then reported back to the health department about the purchase of a package worth VND9.54 billion ($412,000), including a VND7 billion ($302,400) real-time PCR testing system, a VND1.2 billion ($51,800) DNA/RNA extraction machine, and two refrigerators and a cooler worth a combined VND1.34 billion ($57,900).

Nguyen Nhat Cam, former director of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control, and other defendants during the trial at the Hanoi People’s Court on December 12, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Nhat Cam, former director of the Hanoi Center for Disease Control, and other defendants stand their trial at the Hanoi People’s Court on December 12, 2020. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre

Police investigation revealed that the COVID-19 testing system cost only VND2.3 billion ($99,300), but Cam had colluded with Nguyen Ngoc Nhat, an employee of Vitech Development Company, and Nguyen Thanh Tuyen, an employee of Phuong Dong Medical Equipment Company, to overstate the price of the equipment.

Cam also directed his employees to legalize necessary procedures, enabling the Vietnam Scientific and Material Science Company (MST) to win the bid at a price they had agreed upon, resulting in an economic loss of over VND5.4 billion ($233,200).

The jury said that the defendants’ acts were extremely dangerous to the entire society, affecting the Party and state’s prestige, especially when Vietnam was focusing on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cam played the leading role in the wrongdoing and thus was given the heaviest sentence among the defendants.

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