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Dozens of officials go on trial for theft

Update: June, 09/2016 - 09:00
Forty three defendants, including an unprecedented number of 31 customs officials of the Mekong Delta’s An Giang Province and HCM City, went on trial yesterday on suspicion of appropriating hundreds of billion đồng from the State.— Photo dantri.com.vn

HCM CITY — Forty three defendants, including an unprecedented number of 31 customs officials of the Mekong Delta’s An Giang Province and HCM City, went on trial yesterday on suspicion of appropriating hundreds of billion đồng from the State.

Twenty nine of the customs officials are accused of abusing their official power and two former customs officers are accused of aggravated negligence.

In all 46 suspects were ordered to stand trial under the indictment issued by the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Việt Nam, but three escaped.

The alleged ringleader, Trần Thị Bích Tuyền, 35, former director of Đại Đắc Tài Co Ltd., stands accused of smuggling, appropriating property and giving bribes.

Lê Dũng, 62, former director of Sài Gòn Industrial Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company, is accused of smuggling, cheating, appropriating property and abusing his position.

Võ Văn Ân, former deputy director of Sài Gòn Industrial Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company, stands accused of aggravated negligence.

According to the indictment, the suspects encouraged the export of goods on which exporters get a value-added tax (VAT) refund. Tuyền then conspired with other suspects to appropriate the tax refund.

Between May 2011 and September 2013, according to the indictment, Dũng signed 145 fake contracts to sell tobacco and food to Tuyền, valued at over VNĐ1.3 trillion (US$61.6 million).

Tuyền and Dũng colluded with customs officials of Khánh Bình Border Gate in An Giang Province to legalise their fake documents and then submitted them to the HCM City’s Tax Division for a refund. The suspects got VNĐ80 billion ($3.6 million) in tax refunds.

Their scheme was discovered in September 2013 when a team of the Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department under the General Department of Việt Nam Customs checked and found 20 tonnes of rice, worth VNĐ190 million ($8,500) in two containers destined for export to Cambodia at the Sài Gòn Port, instead of 3,000 packages of tobacco worth up to VNĐ24 billion (over $1 million) as the customs declaration said.

Sentences for the suspects will be handed down on June 28 at the People’s Court of HCM City, chaired by Judge Phạm Lương Toản. — VNS

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