Former district head faces death sentence

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The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court on Tuesday (August 3) opened a trial of the former Hoc Mon District head for allegedly accepting bribes to approve two infrastructure projects.

The trial of Nguyen Van Khoe, former chairman of Hoc Mon People's Committee, along with nine other defendants including Tran Thi Ha, former director of Thanh Phat Company and her deputy Ha Van Hoa, was scheduled to begin on July 14.

The start date was changed to August 3 so that it could be arranged for a large number of involved parties, including ten lawyers, 15 witnesses and 42 people with rights and/or duties to be present, said the court.

The case began in 2002, when common-law husband and wife Hoa and Ha registered a new company with a value of VND5 billion (current US$261,985) when in reality, it was not worth VND1 billion, according to the indictment.

The pair later falsified documents to inflate the stated value of their company to VND50 billion.

Prosecutors say the two secured approval to build a housing estate and an industrial zone in the district's Dong Thanh Commune in late 2002 and early 2003, despite not having the financial capability to build them, after bribing Khoe and other officials. The indictment said Khoe had received kickbacks totaling VND1.4 billion from the pair.

With approval for the two projects, Ha and Hoa secured loans of 3,000 taels (approximate 3,600 ounces) of gold and VND18 billion at the Cho Lon Branch of the Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank). They were also accused of bribing Agribank employees to obtain the loans.

Prosecutors also accused Ha and Hoa of bribing various officials in Dong Thanh Commune.

Khoe was charged with "receiving bribes", "abuse of power" and "abusing his official capacity to influence others and appropriate property." He could end up facing the death sentence, prosecutors said. Ha and Hoa were charged with "offering bribes" and "committing fraud to appropriate property."

A trial of this case in 2009 was deferred pending further investigation.

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