New accusations by Ha Giang girls and bribery allegations spread the sleaze further
Nguyen Thi Hang escorted by police to her trial on January 27. After the Ha Giang Appeals Court annulled the verdict against Hang and another student, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, the girls have made fresh accusations during the reinvestigation ordered by the court. PHOTO BY THAI SON
People's Committee officials, department directors, police officials and entrepreneurs no one looks like they'll escape the wide net being cast by the reinvestigation of a sex-scandal in Ha Giang Province.
The sensational case of a school principal convicted of having sex with underage students has turned even murkier with the defendants naming more senior government officials and a defense lawyer and defendants alleging a spate of bribery attempts.
Since last month, the fresh accusations and allegations have brought several central government agencies, including the highest prosecutor's office, the Ministry of Public Security and the Party's Central Inspection Committee to the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang.
They will monitor the renewed investigation of Sam Duc Xuong former principal of Viet Lam Secondary School in Vi Xuyen District.
Last November, the Ha Giang Court of First Instance sentenced Xuong to ten and a half years in jail on a statutory rape conviction. Two of his students, Nguyen Thi Hang and Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, were sentenced to six and five years respectively for procuring other young girls to have sex with older men. Hang is 19 and Thuy is 18.
But they were both two years younger when they were allegedly forced to first have sex with local officials.
An appeals court on February 1 annulled the verdict and ordered a fresh investigation into the case. All three defendants, who had appealed for a lenient sentence, changed their appeals at this trial and said they pleaded not guilty.
Hang and Thuy also named for the first time ten other men, including senior government officials, as having had sex with them when they were underage.
During the latest investigation, Hang reconfirmed she'd had sex with Xuong and other Ha Giang officials for money between 2008 and 2009, as she had claimed at the appeals court. However, she added that these officials included senior officials of Ha Giang People's Committee, directors of the committee's departments, the police and entrepreneurs in the province, according to police source who spoke on condition of anonymity
THE CASE FILE
"¢ September 2009: Parents of an eighth grader at Viet Lam Secondary School send a letter to police accusing Sam Duc Xuong, the former principal of the school, of raping their daughter.
"¢ September 5, 2009: Nguyen Thi Hang, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy are detained on suspicion of procuring girls for prostitution.
"¢ September 7, 2009: Sam Duc Xuong is detained for having sex with underage girls.
"¢ November 6, 2009: Ha Giang Court of First Instance sentences Xuong to ten and a half years, Hang to six years and Thuy to five years.
"¢ February 1, 2010: Ha Giang Appeals Court, considering three defendants' appeals, annulled the verdict and demanded a fresh probe into the case
Thuy also made similar confessions of having had sex with Xuong and several other officials.
The two girls told investigators they had sex with a total of 12 government officials and entrepreneurs in Ha Giang. They could remember well the phone numbers, motorcycle license plates and identification marks of the men, as well as time and place.
Thuy and Hang also accused Xuong of having organized the sexual encounters with several of these men. Thuy even said Xuong had ordered her to have sex with an official of Vi Xuyen District in early 2009 without any payment because the principal wanted to improve relations with this official.
While the new investigation was underway and several government officials were accused of involvement, some strangers reportedly offered bribes to lawyer Tran Dinh Trien, who has taken on Thuy's case pro bono.
Trien had revealed the names of the officials and entrepreneurs that the girls said they had sex with.
"Some people met me and said they represent the officials here [in Ha Giang] and proposed that I drop the case and I would get VND10 billion (US$527,400) in return," said Trien, who heads the Vi Dan Law Office in Hanoi.
"After I asked them if they thought I was that cheap, they misunderstood my question and doubled the offer to VND20 billion. I went mad and yelled at them that my value couldn't be calculated by money but by implementation of laws," he said.
Trien also said he had received several threatening SMSs in his mobile phone and some people had followed him when he was in Ha Giang and in Hanoi.
Meanwhile, Thuy's mother, Nguyen Thi Thom, said she had been told by people she knows and also strangers not to take the case further.
She also said a relative of a Ha Giang police official had sent messages to her mobile phone after the fresh probe was ordered into the case, asking her to tell Thuy not to recognize a certain man of having had sex with her when asked by investigators.
Xuong, who rejected accusations of having sex with the students, had also given money to families of the students, including a 13-year-old girl in Vi Xuyen District's Quang Ngan Commune, to say nothing, the unnamed police source said.
The family of another 13-year-old student of Viet Lam High School, who had accused a man named Dung of buying the girl's virginity through Xuong's ring, has withdrawn their accusation letter after receiving VND35 million ($1,850) from the man, an investigation by Thanh Nien found.
Principal coerced students to have sex
Many students have alleged they were victims of Sam Duc Xuong's ring.
They said they were threatened with getting bad school records if they refused to have sex with Xuong and other people the principal organized. Many of the girls were from poor families or their parents had divorced.
A 15-year-old student, identified only as T., has accused principal Sam Duc Xuong of Viet Lam High School in Ha Giang Province of forcing her to have sex with him in 2009 when she was only 14
Nguyen Thi Hang, former student at Viet Lam High School, said at the trial that she agreed to sell her virginity to Xuong and had sex with him later on because the principal had threatened to spoil her school records, while she could have both money and a good record if she agreed.
In October 2008, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, another student involved in the ring, was accused of taking another student, identified only as N., to have sex with Xuong.
"My school record was not so good and Xuong had threatened to disqualify me in the final exam," N. told Thanh Nien, adding that she was paid VND1 million ($53) by Xuong for her virginity. N.'s family was poor and her parents had to work away from home regularly to make their living.
Another Viet Lam schoolgirl, X., also said Thuy had arranged for her and other schoolgirls to have sex with Xuong.
"Thuy took me to a hotel room before leaving me with a strange man. He told me to undress and chased me after I refused," X. said. She also said Xuong had paid her VND1 million and Thuy took VND100,000 from this later.
X.'s father, Nguyen Khong Minh, said his daughter had sex with Xuong in 2009 when the 7th grader was only 13 years old. Minh was in jail and X. had to work as babysitter for a family at Vi Xuyen District when she became Xuong's victim, he said.