|Defendant Nguyễn Thị Hồng Nga in court on Thursday. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết
SƠN LA — Only 16 of 38 witnesses appeared at a first-instance trial on the 2018 cheating scandal in the national high school exam that opened on Thursday in the northern mountainous province of Sơn La.
Several students who had their test scores altered and their parents did not show up. Their absence would not affect the trial, said the provincial People’s Procuracy as they had collected sufficient testimony.
In October 2019, Sơn La People’s Court opened a trial for the eight defendants for abusing their positions and powers in performing official duties in the exam-cheating scandal.
But after four days, the court returned the file for the investigation to be reopened.
Among 12 accused of crimes in the case, eight face prosecution for abusing their positions and power in performing official duties.
They are Trần Xuân Yên – former deputy director of Sơn La Province Department of Education and Training, Lò Văn Huynh – former head of examination and quality management section of the Sơn La Education and Training Department, Cầm Thị Bun Sọn, Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn and Nguyễn Thị Hồng Nga – officials of Sơn La Education and Training Department; Đặng Hữu Thuỷ – former vice-principal of Tô Hiệu High School; and Đỗ Khắc Hưng and Đinh Hải Sơn – Sơn La Police officers.
Four others have been charged with bribery, namely Hoàng Thị Thành – former president of the Farmers’ Association of Quỳnh Nhai District in Sơn La Province, Trần Văn Điện – a staff member of Chiềng Cơi Primary and Secondary School in Sơn La city, Lò Thị Trường, a resident of Sơn La City and Nguyễn Minh Khoa – another Sơn La Police officer.
Huynh, Nga and Sọn are also charged with accepting bribes.
According to the indictment, defendants were found to have increased the exam scores of 44 students in the national high school examination held in June 2018.
Sơn La reported the country’s lowest average score of 4.21. However, the province’s number of students scoring 9 or above out of 10 in mathematics and physics exceeded those in other localities.
Trần Xuân Yến, as the province’s deputy head of steering committee for the national high school examination, is accused of receiving information on 13 candidates to alter their scores.
Yến allegedly composed a list of candidates and their desired scores then handed it to Nga to make the adjustments.
Hoàng Tiến Đức, former director of Sơn La Province Department of Education and Training, was among the absent witnesses. He did not show up at previous court dates due to undergoing medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
Đức is accused of handing Yến a list of eight candidates for test score adjustments.
On August 6, 2018, Điện asked Nga to raise the test results for four candidates and promised to pay her VNĐ230 to 250 million (US$9,900 to 10,700) for each one. Nga, Thuỷ and Sọn completed Điện’s request. After the exam, Điện gave Nga VNĐ1.04 billion ($44,780).
When Nga was arrested, her family handed over VNĐ1 billion ($43,000) to the investigation agency.
Lò Văn Huynh was accused of receiving VNĐ300 million ($12,900) to change the test scores of Lò Thị Trường’s son. Although Huynh denied having received VNĐ1 billion from Nguyễn Minh Khoa to increase the scores of two other candidates, the procuracy said they found evidence for the accusation.
On June 13, 2018, Khoa went to Huynh’s house and allegedly offered him VNĐ1.4 billion ($60,270) to alter the test results of two candidates so that they could enrol in the People’s Police University. Khoa is supposed to have advanced VNĐ1 billion.
On July 26, 2018, Nguyễn Minh Khoa called Huynh to ask for a refund. However, the money had already handed to the investigation agency.
Under questioning, Huynh changed his testimony, saying he had not received money from Khoa and the VNĐ1 billion was from his savings and earned from selling land. Khoa said he just gave Huynh a list of candidates but did not bribe him to make amendments.
The investigation, however, appears to show that Khoa bought Huynh off to raise test scores.
Cầm Thị Bun Sọn was alleged to receive VNĐ440 million ($18,940) from Hoàng Thị Thành to increase the test results of a candidate.
Đặng Hữu Thuỷ also admitted to pocketing VNĐ500 million ($21,500) from three parents but said she returned the money.
Thuỷ’s act showed signs of "accepting bribes", but apart from her testimony, there are no other documents and evidence to make a conclusion, according to the procuracy. — VNS