Charges retained against senior ex-official in HCMC land scam

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Prosecutors have re-issued charges of bribery and abuse of power against a former senior official in Ho Chi Minh City involved in a major land scam nearly three years after the court ordered the case re-investigated.

Tran Kim Long, former chairman of the Go Vap District People's Committee, who had earlier been sentenced to 25 years in jail, is charged with crimes of "receiving bribes", "offering bribes" and "abuse of power to influence others and appropriate property," according to the indictment announced this week by the municipal prosecutor's office.

Former secretary of Go Vap Party Unit Nguyen Van Tinh is charged with receiving bribes as well as "abuse of power to influence others and appropriate property." He had earlier received a 11-year sentence.

Real estate agent Pham Thi Tuyet Lan, who had received a life sentence for "instigating the embezzlement", is charged with offering bribes and violating state regulations in land management. Duong Cong Hiep, deputy head of Go Vap Urban Management Agency, who had been sentenced to 18 years for embezzlement, was handed down the same charges as Lan's in the latest indictment.

Le Minh Chau, former director of Go Mon Real Estates Company and his deputy Ho Tung Lam are both charged with offering and receiving bribes. Nguyen Minh Hoang, who was accused of attempting to help other defendants bribe senior officials to ignore the case, is charged with committing fraud to appropriate property. These three defendants had been sentenced to between five and 22 years at the first trial.

According to the indictment, Lan colluded with Hiep to illegally buy and sell land for cash since 1999. Investigators said Lan was also hired by landowners to apply for land titles on their behalf, but had instead sold their land.

Lan cashed in more than VND16 billion (current US$842,992) from the scam and she gave Hiep VND3 billion, prosecutors allege. Lan and Hiep also gave bribes of VND2.5 billion to Long, Chau and Lam, they add.

When the scam was under investigation by the Government Inspectorate and the police in 2004, Long met Chau and Lam and agreed to pay Hoang VND20 million and $30,000 to bribe the investigators.

Tinh knew of the scam through accusation letters and instructed prosecutors to make a report on the case, but later ignored the report and demanded bribes of VND800 million from Chau, prosecutors allege.

The first trial was held at the Court of First Instance in February 2007, but the verdict was repealed by the Supreme Court six months later.

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