The People's Supreme Procuracy has dropped embezzlement charges against four former officials of the transport ministry's Project Management Unit 18 (PMU18).
Vu Manh Tien, Le Thi Thanh Hoa, Nguyen Thanh Son, and Bui Thu Hanh, instead, will be charged with "abuse of power" with a lighter punishment range, according to Vietnam's highest procuracy office.
The change was made in accordance with a supplemental investigation recently wrapped up by the Ministry of Public Security's inspectorates.
The investigation was ordered when Hanoi's People's Court delayed the trial of the four former officials and their senior, Bui Tien Dung, 50, former director of PMU18 last September.
In the procuracy's latest indictment, Dung, who is serving his time under a 13-year jail sentence handed down to him in 2007 for gambling and bribery in a separate case, will face the same charge - deliberate and serious violations of state regulations on economic management.
According to the indictment, Dung caused losses to the state of VND2.68 billion (US$141,238) by misappropriating nine state-owned cars from 1998 to 2005.
His subordinates, meanwhile, pocketed over VND1.5 billion in total by forging documents to rent out cars and houses.
Under Clause 3 of Article 165 in Vietnam's Criminal Law, a person who commits a crime that causes the state more than VND1 billion ($56,300) in losses can be jailed for 10-20 years.
Dung was also involved in another case where he and his subordinates allegedly faked documents to show that non-existent workers had been supplied as consultants to the subcontractors of Bai Chay Bridge project in the northern province of Quang Ninh. They enacted the ruse to pocket the wages, investigators said.
From August 2003 to February 2006, they siphoned off nearly VND3.5 billion ($183,486) from the salaries of 26 non-existent workers, which were paid by the state fund assigned to the project, prosecutors said. The project had been approved in 1998 with a total investment of VND1.3 trillion.
The trial of the latter was also delayed in March by Hanoi's People's Court, as more evidence is needed.