Five former government officials in the northern province of Ha Nam were sentenced on Monday for extorting locals for land use fees.
Lai Van Quan, who served as the chairman of Le Hong Phong Ward in Phu Ly (the provincial capitol) until May 2010, was sentenced to nine years. Quan's replacement, Nguyen Van Dien, who held the post until July 2013, was sentenced to a decade in prison, Nhan Dan newspaper reported.
Tran Quang Tuan, a former employee of the ward's finance and accounting department, received 13 years, Pham Van Thanh, a former ward cashier received ten years.
Lai Van Binh, a former ward transport and construction official, got five years.
The officials were charged with fraud, embezzlement and violations of economic management regulations, according to the paper.
Prosecutors said that Quan ordered Tuan and Thanh to illegally charge 17 families nearly VND900 million (US$42,400) for land use fees under a land allocation project.
The money was not put into the ward budget and more than VND730 million was spent by the officials involved.
Dien continued the scheme by ordering Tuan and Thanh to charge 148 other families more than VND1.2 billion in arbitrary land fees. At the time of their arrest, the officials had already spent half of their illicit proceeds.