Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The Hà Nội People’s Court started hearing an appeal by former National Assembly member Châu Thị Thu Nga on Tuesday in the VNĐ377 billion (US$16.8 million) property scam case.
The case involved Nga, chairwoman of the Land and Housing Construction and Investment JSC (Housing Group), and nine others.
At the first hearing last October, the high-level People’s Court sentenced Nga to life imprisonment for swindling and illegal asset appropriation.
It also handed down jail terms of six years, four years, 30 months and 24 months, respectively, to four former general directors of Housing Group: Nguyễn Trường Sơn, Lê Hồng Cương, Nguyễn Vũ Hùng and Phan Thanh Tuyên.
Other people sentenced in the case included two former directors of Housing Group’s real estate trading company, Nguyễn Thị Tình and Lưu Thị Thúy, who will be imprisoned for seven and three years, respectively.
The former chief accountants of the Housing Group, Phạm Thị Thu Hạnh and Đinh Phúc Hiếu, got three years and a three-year suspended sentence, respectively. Đoàn Thị Thanh Thủy, former acting chief accountant of the group, got two years in prison.
The court said Nga and her accomplices publicised false information about the B5 Cầu Diễn project, deceiving and misappropriating nearly VNĐ377 billion (over $16.5 million) from 726 customers who paid for 752 apartments. She returned nearly VNĐ29 billion to 43 customers who did not receive the apartments, but kept more than VNĐ348 billion, including VNĐ157 billion, which she spent without producing receipts or documentation.
The court found Nga guilty of masterminding the swindle and spending all the money.
In a letter of appeal sent to the Hà Nội People’s Court later, Nga denied the charges she had been convicted of and claimed her sentence was too harsh.
She also appealed against the court’s decision asking her to return VNĐ54 billion ($2.4 million) to the victims of the scam.
According to the indictment, the B5 Cầu Diễn project in North Từ Liêm District, Hà Nội City, was within the land assigned by the State to the Hà Nội Import-Export Investment Construction and Development One Member Co Ltd (HAIC) for production and business activities.
It was a resettlement housing project meant to serve the urban traffic development in the capital city, and not for commercial housing.
However, Nga signed a partnership contract with Nguyễn Văn Tuấn, HAIC chairman, to co-invest in the B5 project.
The two intended to use the B5 land to construct apartment buildings and villas.
The investigation found that the new plans for the project had not been granted a construction licence by the Hà Nội People’s Committee, but the group lured unsuspecting buyers to commercial housing through false advertisements.
Between 2009 and 2013, by showing unapproved drawings of the apartments, Nga and her accomplices signed some 752 capital contribution contracts, collecting VNĐ377 billion from home buyers, with a promise to transfer the usage rights for 752 apartments from the second to the 33rd floor in a residential complex.
Nga returned some VNĐ29 billion ($1.3 million) to buyers who withdrew from the project, but was unable to repay the remaining VNĐ348 billion ($15.5 million) because it had already been spent.
Following complaints from buyers who did see any progress in the apartments they had bought, Nga was arrested and her house raided in January 2015 by the police from the Ministry of Public Security.
Nga was the mastermind who lured the other accused to commit crimes and also used all the appropriated money.
The court will last through next Monday. — VNS