Vietnam's Ministry of Health on Thursday ordered hospitals around the country to review their purchases of medical equipment manufactured by US-based Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., which was found to have bribed local officials for public contracts.
The hospitals were told to make a list of products bought since 2005 and provide relevant documents of the purchases to the ministry by Nov. 12.
The same day, Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said Vietnamese health authorities had asked for information exchange and cooperation with the US to investigate bribery allegations against Vietnamese government officials.
Any wrongdoings, if found, will be strictly punished, she said.
Earlier this week, Bio-Rad agreed to pay US$55 million to settle allegations that it bribed officials in Russia, Vietnam and Thailand for public contracts.
In a deal struck with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company avoided criminal prosecution under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by cooperating in the probe.
Bio-Rad's leadership has allegedly acknowledged that subsidiaries in Europe and Asia bribed government officials between 2005 and 2010 with money funneled to poorly-disguised middlemen.
The SEC said that the company paid roughly $7.5 million in bribes over five years to secure $35 million in "illicit profits."
According to SEC, Bio-Rad maintained a sales representative office in Vietnam from 2005-2009. A country manager supervised the Vietnam Office’s sales activities, and was authorized to approve contracts up to $100,000 and sales commissions up to $20,000.
During the time, the country manager authorized the payment of bribes to government officials to obtain their business. At the direction of the country manager, the sales representatives made cash payments to officials at government-owned hospitals and laboratories in exchange for their agreement to buy Bio-Rad’s products.
Between 2005 and the end of 2009, the Vietnam office made improper payments of $2.2 million to agents or distributors, which was funneled to Vietnamese government officials.
Bio-Rad's sales manager agreed to the practice fearing that the company would lose 80 percent of its sales if it stopped paying bribes, according to the SEC complaint.