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Former Regulatory Official Jailed for Corruption

By Song Shiqing

(Beijing) — A former official from the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) was sent to prison on Tuesday for taking bribes from vaccine manufacturers who wanted help obtaining regulatory approvals for products, including those for treating severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and bird flu.

Yin Hongzhang, the former deputy director of the biological products division under the regulator’s drug registration department, was sentenced to 10 years and fined 500,000 yuan ($71,900) by the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court for abusing his position.

From 2002 to 2015, Yin and his family had accepted 3.56 million yuan in bribes in the forms of cash or gifts, including a piece of ivory. Several drugmakers in Shanghai and Zhejiang province had paid Yin in return for speedier approvals or to get permits for shots that hadn’t completed trials, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Yin’s wife was imprisoned for three years and their son for two years for being accomplices.

In one case, Yin demanded 350,000 yuan from a drug company to buy a villa in an undisclosed location and renovate his apartment in Beijing. In return, Yin had “taken care of the approvals” for the firm’s vaccines for SARS, bird flu, and H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, the drug company head said in his testimony during Yin’s trail.

In another case, Yin helped a drugmaker win approval for a shot that hadn’t completed the required trials because the company gave Yin’s son 1 million yuan in cash, court documents showed. The pharmaceutical company also put Yin’s son on the payroll of one of its subsidiaries and paid him a salary beginning in 2010 for an unknown number of years although the son never reported to work.

Yin also accepted kickbacks from another drugmaker who had failed to gain approvals, helping the company reduce its waiting time when it applied for approval for the second time. The move saved the company a wait of at least three years, court documents showed.

Yin was taken into custody pending investigations in April 2015 after two whistleblowers revealed his corrupt practices. He was removed from his post two months later.

The sentencing comes less than a year after a massive vaccine scandal rattled Chinese patients. A mother-daughter duo in Shandong province were arrested in March for selling nearly 310 million yuan worth of expired and improperly stored vaccines in 17 cities and provinces.

After the case came to light, many parents shocked by the news refused locally made shots, and media reports showed that some families were taking children to Hong Kong to get vaccinated.

The central government pledged stricter scrutiny over vaccine manufacturing and distribution to calm the public outcry triggered by the case. Nearly 360 officials linked to the case were demoted or removed from their posts, and 200 suspects were detained in the following month.

Contact reporter Song Shiqing (shiqingsong@caixin.com)

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