In trouble over 20,000 litres of cough syrup

Ex-sales manager of pharmaceutical firm supplied medicine for sale on black market

Ang admitted supplying a medicinal product that is not on the general sales list, and conspiring with two people to forge tax invoices.
Ang admitted supplying a medicinal product that is not on the general sales list, and conspiring with two people to forge tax invoices.

A former sales manager of a pharmaceutical company delivered more than 20,000 litres of cough syrup to a Malaysian despite suspecting that he was selling it on the black market, a court heard yesterday.

Ashley Jas Ang Wei Hoon, 38, supplied batches of the medicine to Wong Kin Yu at least 188 times from May 2009, in an effort to hit sales targets.

The estimated 20,307 litres involved is the highest amount of codeine dealt with in such cases, the court heard.

Wong would contact and instruct Ang to place orders under different clinic names.

She would then place the orders with her company, Beacons Pharmaceuticals.

After the medicine was delivered to Wong, he would sign the invoices and stamp the details of various clinics. She knew that he had provided false details in the invoices with the intent to commit fraud.

Yesterday, Ang, who faced 395 charges, admitted 30 counts each of supplying a medicinal product which is not on the general sales list; and conspiring with Wong and clinic assistant Soh Woon Mei to forge tax invoices to deceive Beacons into believing that the orders were from general practitioner clinics.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Stacey Anne Fernandez said the Health Sciences Authority discovered discrepancies between invoices for deliveries by Beacons to 72 clinics and orders by the clinics between Aug 9, 2009 and May 19, 2010.

The clinics confirmed that they had not placed such orders with Beacons and that the clinic stamps and signatures on the invoices were not theirs.

In May 2009, Ms Soh, who worked at Kim Tian Clinic, asked Ang if she could help her order and deliver bottles of codeine-based cough syrup to Wong, who had previously visited the clinic.

Ang initially declined, but later, after realising she could not meet her team's sales target, accepted Ms Soh's request.

DPP Fernandez said Ang had wanted to develop a good portfolio "in the hope of getting a job in another multinational company".

She said that between May 2009 and May 2010, Ang delivered a total of 5,345 bottles of cough syrup and 20 bottles of codeine and other tablets to Wong.

Ang claims to have received a total of $10,000 from the deliveries.

Among some of the aggravating factors cited by DPP Fernandez were Ang's abuse of position of trust, that it was a difficult offence to detect and that she had been motivated by financial gain.

Ms Soh died of a natural cause during investigation while a warrant of arrest is out for Wong.

The case was adjourned until Nov 6 for Ang's lawyer Tan Cheow Hung to mitigate.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline In trouble over 20,000 litres of cough syrup. Subscribe