Presiding judge Trần Nam Hà (centre) reads the verdict against the defendants in the Nhật Cường case. — VNA/VNS Photo Phạm Kiên
HÀ NỘI — The People’s Court of Hà Nội sentenced 13 defendants to between four and 13 years in prison for smuggling in the Nhật Cường Mobile case on Monday after five working days.
A total of 14 defendants were on trial over the mobile phone smuggling case.
Trần Ngọc Ánh, Deputy Director-General of Nhật Cường, was handed 13 years behind bars; Đỗ Quốc Huy, the company’s sales director, received nine years; Hoàng Văn Phong, head of Apple devices department, got six years; Bùi Quốc Việt, an employee, got five years; Trần Tất Khoa, Director of Nhật Cường branch office in Guangzhou, China, received six years; Lê Hoài Phương, an employee of the Guangzhou office, was handed four years, and Ngô Tuấn Sửu, Director of Thanh Sơn Investment and Infrastructure Development Co Ltd, got five years.
Four freelance workers – Nguyễn Bảo Trung, Ngô Đức Tùng, Phạm Văn Hiệp, and Đỗ Văn Dũng – received sentences of four, six, seven, and eight years behind bars, respectively, while employee Nông Văn Lư got seven years behind bars.
Nguyễn Bảo Ngọc, the company’s finance director, received 10 years imprisonment for smuggling and four years for violations of accounting regulations that result in serious consequences, while the company’s chief accountant, Nguyễn Thị Bích Hằng, received three years and six months in prison for accounting violations.
A 15th defendant, Mai Tiến Dũng, head of the company’s used phone department, died from a serious illness on April 23, before the trial opened so the investigation into him was halted.
The prime suspect – Director-General of Nhật Cường Group Bùi Quang Huy, charged with smuggling, accounting violations and violations of bidding regulations – is still wanted by police and is thought to have fled the country.
The judging panel requested the police and the Supreme People's Procuracy work to apprehend Huy for further investigation. They also want further investigations into the role of two gold stores – Lộc Phát on Hà Trung Street and Thuận Phát on Hàng Dầu Street, both in Hà Nội – which were suspected to have helped Nhật Cường move money overseas.
The verdict stated the company’s leader Huy has made more than VNĐ221 billion (US$9.66 million) in illicit profits. Since Huy has fled the country, the judges want the 13 defendants convicted of smuggling to pay the redress – Ánh must pay VNĐ69 billion, Ngọc VNĐ40 billion, Lư 10 billion and the remaining between VNĐ1-10 billion.
Ngọc and Hằng, charged with accounting violations, will have to submit VNĐ16 billion and VNĐ13 billion respectively to the State budget.
The judges said the evidence clearly demonstrated the defendants colluded to commit criminal acts masterminded by their boss, Huy. The defendants either directly helped or aided and abetted Huy with his smuggling crimes multiple times, the crimes were organised and led to disturbances in the market, so it was necessary to “educate and punish with severe penalties".
Apart from Trung who denied all charges, the judges highly valued the admission of crimes and attitude from Nguyễn Ngọc Ánh, Trần Bảo Ngọc, and Nông Văn Lư, and noted the contributions from many defendants to the clarification of the case.
According to the verdict, between 2014 and May 2019, Nhật Cường placed 2,502 orders for 254,364 products including iPhones, computers and tablets from many vendors in the US, UAE, Singapore, and China’s Hong Kong. The company did not import phones via official, legal channels but spent VNĐ72.9 billion to hire nine ‘shipping operations’ to smuggle the illegal goods from Hong Kong into Việt Nam.
The total value of goods and transportation costs were estimated at VNĐ3 trillion, and the profits deemed to be VNĐ221 billion.
Huy directed the establishment of two separate accounting books, one to keep up with the actual operations of the company, and a fake one to present to authorities to avoid tax. The company frequently posted small annual profits or even deficits. The tax losses incurred to the State budget were estimated at VNĐ30 billion.
The defendants mostly admitted to the crimes but said they just followed Huy’s directions and didn’t really receive any of the illegal profits.
Without Huy at the trial, the judges couldn’t examine remaining unclear issues such as how they moved money overseas through the two gold stores or how the products could get through customs for so many years without being discovered.
The judging panel decided to confiscate more than 1,000 mobile phones and seized many other assets at Nhật Cường and handed over 33 items to the Ministry of Public Security to expand the investigation of the case.
Several officials at Hà Nội’s Department of Investment and Planning are being investigated in a separate case for roles in biding violations in contracts for e-governance/public administration solutions from Nhật Cường.
Former Chairman of Hà Nội People’s Committee Nguyễn Đức Chung, 54 years old, and his wife, are considered to be ‘persons of interest’ in the case and asked a police investigator to illegally provide them with six strictly confidential documents related to the case.
Chung was given five years in prison for misappropriating State secret documents late last year.
The high-profile case was included in the list of ‘special supervision’ of the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption, chaired by Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng, in late 2019. — VNS