Lack of evidence prompted police to declare that the dismissed chairman of Ha Giang Province and 15 other high-ranking officials were not involved in an underage sex scandal, investigators have said.
"There's not enough foundation to conclude that [the suspects] had sex with youth under 18," police in the northern province said after a ten-month investigation into allegations by two schoolgirls despite the latter providing details of where the sexual encounters took place and the money they were paid.
The evidence available is not enough to launch a criminal prosecution against Nguyen Truong To and others, police said.
During the latest investigation undertaken on a court order, the two students, Nguyen Thi Hang and Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, now 19 and 18 respectively, had changed their accusations from being forced to have sex with To and other officials to having it consensually, and being paid between VND200,000-2 million (US$102) each time. The girls also said that on several occasions, they were more than 18 years old.
At the February 1, 2010 hearing of the Ha Giang Court of Appeals, Hang and Thuy had said they were forced by their former principal at Viet Lam Secondary School, Sam Duc Xuong, to have sex with provincial officials including To when they were under 18 years of age.
The girls were, in November 2009, sentenced to five and six-year jail terms for procuring other young girls to have sex with older men while Xuong, who had sex with the girls before sending them around, was sentenced to ten and a half years after he was found guilty of statutory rape.
After the names of officials were heard at the Court of Appeals in February, the court had ordered the case reinvestigated from the beginning.
Although the investigators announced the officials free of criminal responsibility, Ha Giang investigators have sent a statement asking authorized agencies to "consider punishing" the officials according to the law.
Ha Giang People's Procuracy, the provincial prosecutors' agency also agreed there were not enough grounds to hold the officials criminally responsible, but also said the police "are continuing investigation for further confirmation."
Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Tu, the lawyer who represented Hang and Thuy earlier, said the investigators' conclusion was unclear and contained conflicts.
The police said that there's not enough foundation to prove that the men were guilty but still suggested they be punished according to the law, and "that's very unreasonable," Tu said.
"And as the police have concluded that there're not enough evidences to prove the men guilty, so why don't charge the accusers with slander, because the accusers have provided phone numbers and details of each occasion in the sex trade."
He said the conclusion said that 16 people were accused of having sex with the students but didn't state their names, ages, posts, addresses as well as their statements.
"It's not known what the men have testified and the prosecutors have asked based on what. This is very abnormal in an investigation report."
Nguyen Thi Thom, mother of Thuy, on Monday told Thanh Nien she's going to file a statement asking authorized agencies to reject the investigators' conclusion as "there're many dubious points."
Thom said her family has been allowed to see Thuy very rarely since she was detained.
"The most astonishing thing was that my daughter had written a statement refusing to have a lawyer, which is opposite to what she and I had wanted earlier.
"When I asked her, she just cried and said she had been forced to. They said that my daughter is 18 and eligible to write the statement but I don't accept it. I think this is not what my daughter really wants."
Hang's mother Nguyen Thi Hue told local news website VnExpress the same story.
Thom also said To was punished in another sex case, so why should be allowed to go free in the case of her daughter.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in July ordered the dismissal of To from his posts as chairman of Ha Giang People's Committee and deputy of Ha Giang People's Council, which acts as the provincial legislature. The inspectors had recommended the dismissal of To for his "unhealthy relations" and "self-indulgent lifestyle." The Party also announced that To had been expelled.
Several sex workers have said To had sex with them. To's nude photos "in different positions" were also found in a cell phone of one of the sex workers.