Five suspects stand trial in Khanh Hoa Province on August 17, 2015. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
A court in the central province of Khanh Hoa on Monday sentenced a former district police chief to nine years in prison for selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare wood seized from illegal loggers in 2012.
The court found Nguyen Thanh Trung, former police chief of Khanh Son District, guilty of “consuming stolen property,” Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Trung was also ordered to return VND220 million (US$9,957) to the state budget.
Three of Trung's former subordinates were convicted of “abusing of power.”
Nguyen Hong Ha, former district traffic police chief, and Vu Anh Trung, former district environment police chief, were each sentenced to five and a half years. Tran Le Kien, another senior officer, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Luan Van Nam, a local resident who was convicted of colluding with the former officers in the crime, received two and a half years.
A court last year sentenced Trung to 10 years but he appealed the verdict and the case had to be reopened.
According to the indictment, in September 2012, thousands of people rushed to a forest in Khanh Son District to search for calambac, or agarwood, a rare fragrant wood, following rumors that a man had earned a lot of money after selling some agarwood pieces he found there.
Local police officers were dispatched to stop them.
Later, the timber hunters lodged complaints with provincial agencies, claiming that some officials had allowed them to enter the forest on the condition that they all shared the money.
The hunters said the officials seized 1.5 kilograms of wood from them that could be worth VND10 billion (nearly US$453,000), but refused to offer any kickbacks for the valuable loot.
Following the accusations, Trung’s three subordinates were arrested in 2013. Police then investigated Trung’s involvement in the case.
All of the three subordinates told police that Trung directly sold the wood and shared the money with them. Trung repeatedly denied his role in the first trial.