Drug safety agency raided in investigation into suspected illegal lobbying over COVID-19 medication

Prosecutors raided the headquarters of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) on Monday as part of an investigation into allegations that a drug company illegally lobbied the agency to get approval for clinical trials of its COVID-19 medication.

Investigators from the Seoul Western District Prosecutors Office searched the office of the MFDS minister in Cheongju, 112 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and two other locations to seize evidence over allegations that a former minister, surnamed Kim, violated the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act.

The case grew out of an investigation into suspicions that a businessman, known by his family name Yang, gained 900 million won (US$680,735) in illegal profits in 2021 from a drug company seeking his help in winning the agency's clinical trial approval for its coronavirus medication.

The company later won the agency's approvals for the phase two and three trials for its medication.

During the investigation, the prosecution has reportedly obtained a recording that suggests Yang, via the mediation of a Democratic Party lawmaker, enlisted the help of then MFDS minister Kim for getting the agency's approval in favor of the drug company.

Prosecutors suspect Yang sent a text message to the lawmaker and the lawmaker in turn contacted the former MFDS chief, and is looking into whether Yang in fact illegally lobbied high-level MFDS officials via politicians as a broker for the drug firm.

Source: Yonhap News Agency