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First-instance trial opens for HCM City-Trung Luong Expressway fraud

The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City on December 14 opened a first-instance trial over bidding and accounting fraud in the HCM City-Trung Luong Expressway project, a major toll road in southern Vietnam.

The case involves 20 defendants, including Dinh La Thang, who served as Minister of Transport between August 2011 and February 2016; and Nguyen Hong Truong who was Deputy Minister of Transport from April 2007 to August 2017.

Both Thang and Truong are accused of “violating regulations on the management and use of State assets, causing waste and losses,” under Article 219 of the 2015 Penal Code.

Also prosecuted for the same charge are Nguyen Chi Thanh, former deputy head of the Ministry of Transport’s Finance Department; Le Trung Cuong, a staff member of the Finance Department; and senior executives of the project’s investor Cuu Long Group – former Director-General Duong Tuan Minh, former Deputy Director-General Duong Thi Tram Anh and former head of the investment and bidding management department Nguyen Thu Trang.

Dinh Ngoc He, alias Ut Troc, former Deputy Director-General of Thai Son Corporation under the Ministry of National Defence, is charged of “fraud, appropriation of assets” and “abuse of position and power to influence others for personal gain.”

The other 12 defendants are charged with “fraud, appropriation of assets”.

The trial is slated to end on December 25.

According to the indictment of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the HCM City-Trung Luong Expressway project was funded by the State budget, so the toll collection right belongs to the State and the money earned from the sale of the right is the State’s asset.

In his capacity as transport minister, Thang created conditions for Ngoc He’s company to win the bidding for the expressway toll collection right although Thang was aware that that the company was operating at a loss and had no financial capacity.

Ngoc He used falsified documents for the bidding, and after winning it, he continued to commit fraudulent acts aiming to appropriate State assets.

Other defendants who were subordinates of Thang violated regulations on bidding to let He win the bidding. Their acts created the conditions for He to appropriate tolls worth more than 725 billion VND.

The construction of the 62km-long HCM City-Trung Luong expressway started in 2004 and opened in 2010.