Vietnam court increases jail term to district official for receiving bribes

By Le Nga, Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Van Khoe, former chairman of Hoc Mon District People's Committee being escorted out of a courtroom in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday
The country’s highest court increased the jail term of a Ho Chi Minh City official convicted of taking kickbacks on Thursday.
The Supreme People’s Court rejected an appeal and increased the sentence of Nguyen Van Khoe, who was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment by HCMC People’s Court last August.
Khoe will now serve 20.
The former chairman of Hoc Mon District People’s Committee was found guilty of accepting more than US$124,000 (in cash and gifts) from Tran Thi Ha, former director of Thanh Phat Company and Ha Van Hoa (her husband and the company's deputy director) to approve construction of a housing estate and an industrial park in Hoc Mon District’s Dong Thanh Commune in late 2002 and early 2003.
He was charged with “receiving bribes” and “abuse of power.” Khoe was tried along with eight other defendants. 
Hoa also had his jail term upped from 20 to 22 years on Thursday; Ha's 30 year sentence was upheld.
Six remaining defendants, including two former executives of the state-owned Agribank’s Cho Lon branch in HCMC, also got their jail terms, ranging from probation to six years, upheld.
According to the indictment, Ha and Hoa leveraged the project approval to secure loans of 3,000 taels (112,500 grams) of gold and VND18 billion from Agribank’s Cho Lon branch.
They then used the money to pay for site clearance, interest and taxes and pocketed the remaining VND10.5 billion.
Prosecutors say the couple bribed Khoe and other officials, including Hoc Mon District and Dong Thanh Commune officials and Agribank officers, to ensure they wouldn't be caught.
The case went public in early 2007 when police arrested and charged Ha and Hoa.
In August 2010, the HCMC People's Court sentenced Khoe to 26 years in prison. Ha and Hoa received life sentences.
In June 2011, the Supreme People's Court in HCMC overturned the verdict on appeal and ordered a fresh investigation into the case.
The court struck down the previous verdict citing procedural violations by the municipal court in identifying specific crimes committed by the accused.
Last August, the HCMC People’s Court again tried Khoe and sentenced him to 18 years’ imprisonment.

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