Man arrested for fraud, accused of having relations with officials

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Residents in the southern province of Long An are raising questions about the nature of the relationship between local officials and a man who has been arrested for allegedly cheating a woman out of VND460 million ($22,083) by promising to help her evade a jail term.

Suspicions were raised after the People's Procuracy (prosecutor's office) in Can Giuoc District announced Monday that Le Van Pho had been arrested on charges of cheating Pham Thi Be. He was arrested while receiving money from Be's family on September 22.

Pho was also among the 12 people who joined Nguyen Kim Doan, former chief of the prosecutors' office, and his subordinate Nguyen Huong Giang, at an infamous party on a barge on August 20. During the party, a woman fell into the river and drowned while others were swimming.

According to Be's husband, Dang Ngoc Nguyen, after his wife was arrested for procuring sex workers last December, Pho approached them, offering to help Be evade a jail term for VND480 million.

Pho claimed that he had close relations with many officials at the district's office of prosecutors, Nguyen said, adding that Pho also charged another VND15 million ($720) as an additional service fee.

Nguyen then paid Pho, and one month later Be was released on bail.

After the Can Giuoc's People's Court handed down a three-year jail term to Be at a hearing on March 18 this year, Pho asked Nguyen to pay another VND250 million to apply for an appeal. He also told them to get a doctor to certify Be's diseases.

The second hearing on July 18 called by Long An Province's People's Court cut Be's jail term to two years considering about her poor health, and the woman was allowed to delay serving her time.

Immediately after the trial, Pho came to Nguyen's family to collect the money, but the family gave him only VND160 million ($7,681), Nguyen said.

The husband said that Pho then asked for more money to help Be escape the jail term entirely.

However,  Be later received an announcement saying that she would start serving the term from September 26, so her family informed police.

On the other hand, Thanh Nien reporters found that in 2007, Pho received an 18-month suspended sentance for gambling. But, he was latter seen hanging around and drinking with several officials from the district's office of prosecutors.

Judge Le Quang Hung, who headed the appeal trial, told Thanh Nien that court procedures weren't affected by anyone, and no one received money to decrease Be's jail term.

Following the party accident, Doan and Giang received warnings from the provincial Party Unit's committee for participating in "unhealthy recreational activities," and violating the code of conduct prescribed for state employees and the Party members. Doan was also dismissed from his post.

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