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China jails former drug regulatory official for taking bribes

[SHANGHAI] A former official with the China Food and Drug Administration has been jailed for taking bribes from vaccine manufacturers who wanted help with gaining approval for their drugs, the state-owned Legal Evening News newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Yin Hongzhang, the former deputy director of the regulator's drug testing centre, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 500,000 yuan (S$104,000), the newspaper said. His wife and son earlier received prison sentences for their involvement.

The newspaper said Yin and his family accepted 3.56 million yuan in bribes from 2002 to 2015, as well as gifts including ivory products, to help companies in Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese provinces gain or speed up approvals for vaccines used against SARS and bird flu among others.

In one case, he helped a company smooth the drug approval process because he wanted help with buying and renovating a house. In another, he helped a firm shave at least 3 years off an approval process by allowing it to jump a queue.

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Yin was arrested in April 2015, the newspaper said. Reuters was unable to reach Yin for comment.

Yin's sentencing comes as the government has pledged greater scrutiny of vaccines after a scandal broke in 2016 involving nearly US$90 million worth of illegal vaccines that were suspected of being sold in dozens of provinces.

In March last year, a mother and daughter in Shandong province were found to have illegally bought vaccines from traders and sold on to hundreds of re-sellers around China.

Since coming to power in late 2012, President Xi Jinping has waged a campaign against corruption.

Dozens of senior Communist Party people have been jailed, including Zhou Yongkang, who was once China's powerful domestic security chief, given a life sentence for corruption in 2015.