Once exonerated businessman gets life sentence for fraud

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A prominent businessman once exonerated of charges that led to an 18-year-jail term was handed a life sentence for massive fraud at a trial Friday in Hanoi.


Nguyen Dinh Chien, 60, former chief of Bac Ha Investment and Trade Joint Stock Company and the Bac Ha Hong Kong Group, pleaded guilty to charge of "cheating and appropriating properties" of others, according to the Hanoi People's Court.


Chien had been feted as a successful businessman on the well-known television talk show Nguoi duong thoi (Contemporary People) aired by the national VTV1 channel in May 2009 .


According to the indictment, in 2007, Chien falsified financial documents to sign a contract with the Dai Vien Duong Company to help the latter mobilize a US$20 million loan to build an eco-tourism area. Dai Vien Duong was asked to raise between $400,000 and $2 million for the project. 


However, after receiving VND6.5 billion ($311,451) and 12 land titles from Dai Vien Duong, Chien did not abide by the original loan contract. Instead, he used the land titles to secure a bank loan of VND80 billion ($3.8 million) for himself.


He used a similar scheme to misappropriate VND20 billion ($958,313) from a university in Hanoi, the court heard.


In 1996, when Chien was the director of a real estate company in the central city of Hai Phong, he was arrested by the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho on suspicion of misappropriating public assets,


He was accused of owing more than VND152 billion ($7.3 million) in loans and goods to several state-run companies.


Chien spent 28 months in custody and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1998.


He later appealed to the People's Supreme Court in Ho Chi Minh City, and had all charges cleared in 2006 after two appeals found a lack of proper evidence.


In 2008, Vietnam's highest court also ordered Can Tho prosecutors to publicly apologize to Chien, and compensate him for the 28 months he spent in custody as well as other losses suffered.


Chien had demanded VND568 billion ($27.2 million) in compensation to make up for lost profit as his business had closed following his arrest and imprisonment.

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