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»25/06/2007 [Industry news]
Third Chinese drug official charged in corruption scandal

China\'s resolve to clean up corruption in its pharma industry has intensified as the former assistant to the already-condemned-to-death former drug chief has now been charged.

 

Cao Wenzhuan has become the third former State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) official to be charged since this corruption scandal first broke last year.

Cao faced the People\'s Court in Beijing last Thursday, accused of taking the equivalent of $307,000 (€229,000) in bribes from two pharma companies seeking a backdoor approval for their drugs, during his position as Pharmaceutical Registration Department director between 2002 and 2006.

He was also charged with "lowering the drug registration standards, which put the health of the public at risk and undermined government credibility," reported the Beijing Evening News.

Those said by the newspaper to have intimate knowledge of the case against Cao have described the allegations against him as
"extremely serious."
And serious they are indeed, if the recent fate of his former colleagues also caught up in the scandal are anything to go by.

Hao Heping, former director of the medical devices department and was sentenced to 15 years jail on corruption charges last November.

Even more worryingly, however, is the fact that last month Cao\'s [and Hao\'s] former superior Zheng Xiaoyu was found guilty and slammed with the
death penalty by the same Beijing court for taking over $850,000 worth of bribes in the form of cash and gifts when inappropriately approving hundreds of drugs and medical devices, at least six of which proved to be fake.

When he reigned as director ofthe country\'s State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA)between 1997 and 2005, dozens of people were killed by fake and inferior products.

Zheng has since filed an appeal to the provincial supreme court, and as part of his appeal for leniency, lawyers have pointed to his "voluntary confessions" and "confessions of good attitude" and his initiative to return some of the cash and gifts he received as bribes, according to a translated version of the Beijing Times.

He will now await a second trial. Should this fail, his death sentence will likely be carried out immediately.

However, unlike Zheng, Cao has denied the charges against him, and perhaps considering the fate of his former superior, one may not question his reasoning. However, what light this denial will paint him in is uncertain as a confession can often bring concessions in
China\'s legal system.

Meanwhile, similar courtroom scenes can be expected in the coming months, as more than 30 other high-ranking
SFDA officials and even Zheng\'s wife and son are currently still being investigated as part of the corruption scandal that surfaced last year.

China has of late been waging a concerted clean-up campaign on its pharmaceutical industry as it tries to remedy its international reputation as a producer of unsafe and counterfeit drugs, and as a harbourer of corruption, and subsequently attract lucrative international investment and business deals. The hard line approach with Zheng, Cao & co may be a signal to the West of its sincerity to make changes.


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