2 Officials in Vietnam Are Arrested in Covid Test Kit Scandal

Vietnam’s health minister and the mayor of the capital, Hanoi, were removed from their posts and arrested this week after being accused of participating in a coronavirus test kit scandal that led to charges against dozens of government officials.

Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long and Hanoi Mayor Chu Ngoc Anh were stripped of their membership in the Communist Party and their government posts before their arrests on Tuesday, local media reported.

Mr. Long and Mr. Anh, both detained, could not be reached for comment. Neither of the two spoke publicly about the allegations against them before their arrest.

In a lengthy investigation into pricing, Viet A Technology Corporation is accused by authorities of raising the price of marketed kits by up to 45% and of bribing local officials to use its test instead of others.

The company received more than $172 million from sales of the kits, local media reported. The managing director of Viet A Technology Corporation, Phan Quoc Viet, was arrested in December.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Security said in January that Viet confessed to paying local authorities more than $34 million to use the Viet A test kit and that by inflating prices, the company made more than $21. millions.

Vietnam, one of the few communist-ruled states in the world, has long suffered from high-level corruption. An anti-corruption campaign has led to the arrest of several officials in recent years.

Long, the deposed health minister, and Anh, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, who previously served as minister of science and technology, are accused of abuse of power.

By revoking the duo’s membership of the Communist Party, party leaders concluded that their political ideology and morality had degraded and that they had violated party and state rules. Party leaders also found that their actions caused huge losses to the state budget.

Speaking at an online conference in January, Long said the allegations raised by the scandal “are very serious and need to be dealt with rigorously,” but added that they should not undermine the contributions of medical staff and health officials in fighting the pandemic.

In November, the minister told parliament he was “heartbroken” by the price-fixing allegations against health officials.

“Although there are regulations on bidding, there are still violations, embezzlement and corruption,” he said. “We condemn them. The authorities will handle this in accordance with the law.”

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