Appeal of former minister in $120 million land mismanagement to go ahead in absentia

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Former Minister of Industry and Trade Vũ Huy Hoàng at the first-instance trial in Hà Nội in April last year. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The High People’s Court of Hà Nội decided on Friday to commence the appeal trial of Vũ Huy Hoàng, despite the absence of the former Minister of Industry and Trade. Hoàng is contesting a charge of State land mismanagement causing losses of VNĐ2.7 trillion (US$119.36 million).

The trial was postponed once before when Hoàng cited his current hospitalisation status for his absence.

Aside from Hoàng, the other three defendants, who appealed the first-instance verdict related to land use of the State-owned brewing company Sabeco in HCM City, are: Phan Chí Dũng (former Director of Light Industry Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade), Lâm Nguyên Khôi (former Deputy Director of HCM City Department of Planning and Investment) and Lê Quang Minh (former Head of Infrastructure Development Office, HCM City Department of Planning and Investment).

The representative of the Hà Nội high-level Procuracy said Hoàng’s absence was justified, but ultimately does not affect the settlement of the case so the appellate council can deliver judgements as per protocol.

Lawyers of other defendants along with other people related to the case also requested the council to proceed without Hoàng.

Previously, Hà Nội People’s Court handed Hoàng and Dũng 11 and 9 years in prison respectively, both for the crime of violating regulations on management and use of State assets, causing loss and waste.

Lâm Nguyên Khôi got four and a half years, while Lê Quang Minh got three and a half years, both for breaching land management regulations.

Former minister Hoàng asked the appeal court to consider the defendant’s entire actions and behaviour in the case to determine the crime again.

The remaining three defendants asked the appeal court to reconsider the punishment.

The defendants all cited extenuating circumstances for themselves such as sincere confessions, demonstrations of repentance, having committed the crime for the first time and also cooperation with the authorities in the investigation and other legal procedures of the case.

According to the verdict, Sabeco was initially handed a 6,080sq.m land plot at 2-4-6 Hai Bà Trưng Street, District 1, HCM City – considered highly valuable given its downtown position.

During the time at the helm of the corporation, Hoàng and Dũng directed subordinates to carry out procedures to contribute the land they were given to manage as capital to set up the joint-venture Sabeco Pearl company, who along with other private groups, intended to build a six-star hotel, commercial centre, convention centre, and office building here.

Afterwards, the defendants were determined to have been ordered to withdraw the capital of Sabeco from the project, transferring the rights of the management of the land to private entities illegally, causing losses to the State assets.

Hoàng was seen as the mastermind in this effort, while Dũng was seen as an accomplice aiding and abetting the wrongdoing. — VNS

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