Vietnam's highest court has canceled a verdict against a Labor Hero found guilty of establishing an illegal slush fund last year.
The People's Supreme Court last Sunday ordered a new investigation in to the case after concluding that the first trial by a local court in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho's Co Do District last August, and the appeal by the city's court in November, were both rife with mistakes and procedural errors, said Dang Quang Phuong, deputy chief of the Supreme Court.
Both the trials sentanced Tran Ngoc Suong, former director of state-run Song Hau Farm in the city, to eight years in jail for instructing her subordinates to embezzle more than VND9.1 billion ($480,084) in state monies for the off-the-books fund between 2001 to 2007.
The Can Tho People's Court also ordered Suong to pay back VND4.3 billion (current US$226,853) to the government, and suggested prosecutors press embezzlement charges against her.
Three officials involved in the case got jail sentences of between two to five years as well.
Le Huu The, deputy chief of the People's Supreme Procuracy, which proposed the nullification of the verdict, said the ruling was unsatisfied and unconvincing, and that many details needed clarifying.
The mistakes included identifying some incomes as illegal without sufficient evidences, The said.
The high-profile case has been controversial since investigations began in 2008.
Former vice president Nguyen Thi Binh called Suong's prison sentence unjust, adding that the slush fund was actually a welfare fund for the farm collective.
Several other high-ranking officials also spoke out in defense of Suong, who was named a Labor Hero by the government in 2000 and honored at the International Federation of Business & Professional Women's Women Inspire Awards in 2002.
Many Song Hau farmers had entered the collective landless and with few prospects, and had since become prosperous, earning Suong their gratitude.
More than 100 members from one of Vietnam's most successful collective farms had written to the Party Unit in Can Tho City after the verdict, expressing their wishes to serve jail time in place of Suong.
On the other hand, some people had protested Suong's sentence as being too lenient.