Trial adjourned in Dien Bien Phu memorial statue scam

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A court in the northern province of Dien Bien Wednesday halted the trial of eight people, including two former officials, for embezzlement and bribery in a VND40 billion (US$2.1 million) project to build a memorial statue.

More investigation and evidence was needed to clarify the defendants' offences, the court said. The trial had opened Monday.

The court also ordered investigators to confirm the quality of the copper used to build the statue that was opened in 2004 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic Dien Bien Phu victory of 1954, which resulted in the French withdrawing from most of Indochina.

At the moment, inspectorates were using two conclusions reached by the Ministry of Public Security's Criminal Science Institute and the Quality Assurance and Testing Center No.1, it said.

According to indictment, Luong Phuong Cac, former vice director of the Dien Bien Province Department of Culture and Information and also former director of the project management board, and his accomplices built the statue from scrap copper instead of authentic cooper.

They also used less material than they invoiced for, causing VND8.3 billion in losses.

They were also charged with faking documents to embezzle VND242 million and offering and taking VND500 million in bribes.

Among the defendants are Le Van Vien, former vice director of the project management board; Le Huyen, former president of Hanoi Industrial Fine Arts University and Nguyen Duc Sung, a former dean of the school.

Local authorities launched an investigation after the statue developed cracks and rust soon after its opening.

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