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March 3, 2024

Two senior Vietnamese leaders dismissed amid COVID-19 scandals

Vietnam’s Communist Party dismissed two senior leaders from its Central Committee today amid a wave of scandals linked to the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Deputy Prime Ministers Pham Binh Minh and Vu Duc Dam were removed from their positions as members of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s Central Committee, the state-controlled Vietnam News Agency reported.

The dismissals were announced without specific reasons, but the moves come after each was involved in separate scandals related to authorities’ handling of COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The party is expected to hold a regular meeting in early January where new members of the Central Committee would be nominated. 

Pham Binh Minh headed the effort to repatriate Vietnamese citizens stuck abroad, and was accused of being involved in a scheme to extort fees that were split up between and pocketed by Vietnamese officials.

Meanwhile, Vu Duc Dam appears tied to the Viet A Company scandal, where authorities claimed that a Vietnamese-made COVID-19 testing kit was approved by the WHO for use, only to later apologize for the claim after the WHO said the test was not on its approved list. 

Dam was in charge of healthcare when the Viet A Joint Stock Company won a license to produce COVID-19 testing kits. They were sold at a 45% markup, earning $172 million in profits for the company even though the kits were found to be substandard. 

Viet A’s chief executive officer admitted bribing officials around 800 billion dong (U.S.$34 million) to ensure the kits were used in hospitals.

Over the past year, Vietnamese officials have investigated and questioned more than 900 public officials over claims of corruption and abuses of power. 

Translated by Chau Vu. Written in English by Nawar Nemeh. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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