Vietnam ex-official's embezzlement trial postponed

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The trial of nine former officials charged with embezzlement was delayed Monday in Hanoi after judged asked that investigators collect more evidence.

This was the second time Hanoi People's Court postponed trying Bui Tien Dung, former director general of the Transport Ministry's Project Management Unit 18 (PMU18), and his subordinates.

The court first delayed the trial last October, also saying more investigations were needed.

According to the indictment by the People's Supreme Procuracy, Dung and his subordinates 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 (US$183,486) from the salaries of 26 non-existent workers, which were paid byt he state fund assigned to the project, prosecutors said. The project had been approved in 1998 with a total investment of VND1.3 trillion.

The tenth defendant, Do Kim Quy, former of deputy general director of PMU18, was prosecuted for not reporting the offenders when he received VND500 million from Dung as a gift even though he knew it was illegal, according to the indictment. Quy retired after he received the gift.

Under the 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.

In August 2007 Dung was sentenced to 13 years in jail for gambling and bribery in a separate case.

Also on Monday, the People's Court in the northern province of Dien Bien opened a trial of eight people, including two former officials and two professors, for embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power in a VND40-billion project to build a memorial statue.

Luong Phuong Cac, former vice director Dien Bien Province Department of Culture and Information and also former director of the project management board, and his accomplices, were found building the statue from scrap copper instead of authentic cooper. They also used less material than the invoiced for. The scam caused VND8.3 billion in losses, according to the indictment.

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.

Opened in 2004, the statue aimed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic Victory of Dien Bien Phu Battle in 1954, which resulted in the French withdrawal from most of Indochina.

However, it developed cracks and rust soon after, and its background work faded, prompting authorities to launch an investigation.

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