Da Nang CDC director arrested over COVID-19 test kit scam

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Da Nang CDC director arrested over COVID-19 test kit scam

Officers take Ton That Thanh, director of the Center for Disease Control in Da Nang City, back to his house for a search, June 20, 2022. Photo: Doan Cuong / Tuoi Tre

The director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Da Nang City, central Vietnam has been apprehended for his suspected involvement in a COVID-19 test kit scam that allegedly earned him and two accessories over US$172,000.

The municipal Department of Public Security confirmed on Monday it had arrested Ton That Thanh, 58, director of the Da Nang CDC, on embezzlement charges.

Officers also detained Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, 40, head of the Da Nang CDC’s testing laboratory, and initiated legal procedures against Le Thi Kim Chi, 36, an employee of the testing lab, on similar charges.

Police on the same day searched the houses and workplace of the three suspects and confiscated various documents and evidence related to the case.

Preliminary investigation showed that Thanh and his accessories worked with Ho Chi Minh City-based Viet A Technology Corporation (Viet A) between 2020 and 2021 to gain profits from the COVID-19 testing supplies procured by Da Nang authorities.

Thanh directed Nhan and Chi to fake documents in order to raise the price of COVID-19 test kits and convert tens of thousands of pool test samples into single samples on paper, while changing paperwork to show tens of thousands of donated test kits as those purchased from Viet A instead.

With this scheme, the suspects appropriated more than VND4 billion ($172,000).

According to the investigation into Viet A’s COVID-19 test kit scam, which was uncovered last December, the corporation overstated the prices of production equipment and input materials to hike the sale price of its test kits.

Viet A general director Phan Quoc Viet, who was arrested on December 19, confessed to investigators that he paid kickbacks worth nearly VND800 billion ($34.42 million) to his state-owned partners who bought his test kits at the inflated prices.

The firm had supplied test kits to CDCs and other medical facilities of 62 provinces and cities, raking in nearly VND4 trillion ($172.1 million).

To date, about 60 suspects including health officials, directors of CDCs, leaders of hospitals and health departments, and some high-ranking military generals have been detained or under criminal investigation for their involvement in the high-profile scandal, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

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