|The defendants at the trial on Tuesday. —VNA/VNS Photo|
HCM CITY — The HCM City People’s Court on Tuesday sentenced former Minister of Transport Đinh La Thăng to 10 years in prison for violating regulations on the management and use of State assets, causing waste and losses at the HCM City-Trung Lương Expressway project, a major toll road in southern Việt Nam.
The case involved 20 defendants, including Thăng, who served as Minister of Transport between August 2011 and February 2016; and Nguyễn Hồng Trường, who was Deputy Minister of Transport from April 2007 to August 2017.
Both Thăng and Trường were found guilty of “violating regulations on the management and use of State assets, causing waste and losses,” under Article 219 of the 2015 Penal Code.
Also found guilty of the same charge were Nguyễn Chí Thanh, former deputy head of the Ministry of Transport’s Finance Department; Lê Trung Cường, a staff member of the Finance Department; and senior executives of the project’s investor Cửu Long Group – former Director-General Dương Tuấn Minh, former Deputy Director-General Dương Thị Trâm Anh and former head of the investment and bidding management department Nguyễn Thu Trang.
Đinh Ngọc Hệ, alias Út Trọc, former Deputy Director-General of Thái Sơn Corporation under the Ministry of National Defence, was found guilty of “fraud, appropriation of assets” and “abuse of position and power to influence others for personal gain".
The other 12 defendants were charged with “fraud, appropriation of assets”.
According to the indictment of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the HCM City-Trung Lương Expressway project was funded by the State budget, so the toll collection rights belong to the State and the money earned from the sale of the rights belongs to the State.
In his capacity as transport minister, Thăng created conditions for Ngọc Hệ’s company to win the bidding for the expressway toll collection although Thăng was aware the company was operating at a loss and had no financial capacity.
Ngọc Hệ used falsified documents for the bidding, and after winning it, he continued to commit fraud to appropriate State assets.
Other defendants who were subordinates of Thăng violated regulations on bidding to let Hệ win the bidding. Their acts created conditions for Hệ to appropriate more than VNĐ725 billion (US$31.4 million).
Hệ was sentenced to life imprisonment for the charge of “fraud, appropriation of assets” and 13 years for the charge of “abuse of position and power to influence others for personal gain". He was required to compensate more than VNĐ725 billion appropriated from bidding fraud in the HCM City-Trung Lương project.
The construction of the 62km-long HCM City-Trung Lương expressway started in 2004 and opened to traffic in February 2010.
Former deputy minister Trường was sentenced to four years and six months in prison; Thành and Cường, three years each; Minh, three years and six months; and Trang got two years.
The remaining 12 defendants received between 24-month suspended sentences and 10 years in prison.
Đinh La Thăng is already serving a jail sentence for corruption in another case, meaning he will be subject to a total of 30 years in prison. — VNS