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Trial opens over HCMC road fraud

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Former Vietnamese Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang is escorted to the first-instance trial looking into bidding and accounting fraud in the HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway project, a major toll road in southern Vietnam, on Monday. VIETNAM NEWS AGENCY/VIET NAM NEWS

Trial opens over HCMC road fraud

The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) on December 14 opened the first-instance trial looking into bidding and accounting fraud in the HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway project, a major toll road in southern Vietnam.

The case involves 20 defendants, including Dinh La Thang, who served as Minister of Transport between August 2011 and February 2016, and Nguyen Hong Truong who was Deputy Minister of Transport from April 2007 to August 2017.

They are accused of causing 725 billion dong ($31.34 million) in losses to the state budget.

Both Thang and Truong are accused of “violating regulations on the management and use of state assets, causing waste and losses”, under Article 219 of the 2015 Penal Code.

Also prosecuted for the same charge are Nguyen Chi Thanh, former deputy head of the Ministry of Transport’s Finance Department; Le Trung Cuong, a staff member of the Finance Department; and senior executives of the project’s investor Cuu Long Group – former director-general Duong Tuan Minh, former deputy director-general Duong Thi Tram Anh and former head of the investment and bidding management department Nguyen Thu Trang.

Dinh Ngoc He, alias Ut Troc, former deputy director-general of Thai Son Corp under the Ministry of National Defence, is charged with “fraud, appropriation of assets” and “abuse of position and power to influence others for personal gain”.

The other 12 defendants are charged with “fraud, appropriation of assets”.

The trial is slated to end on December 25.

According to the indictment of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway project was funded by the state budget, so the toll collection rights belong to the state and the money earned from the sale of the rights belongs to the state.

In his capacity as transport minister, Thang allegedly created conditions for Ngoc He’s company to win the bidding for the expressway toll collection although Thang was aware the company was operating at a loss and had no financial capacity.

Ngoc He is thought to have used falsified documents for the bidding, and after winning it, he continued to commit fraud to appropriate state assets.

Other defendants who were subordinates of Thang are alleged to have violated regulations on bidding to let He win the bidding. Their acts created conditions for He to appropriate more than 725 billion dong.

The construction of the 62km-long HCMC-Trung Luong expressway started in 2004 and opened to traffic in February 2010.

Thang is already serving a jail sentence for corruption in another case.

VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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