Former Lieutenant General Nguyễn Văn Sơn, Commander of the Vietnam Coast Guard. Photo courtesy of

Seven people, including five former generals and the former commander of the Việt Nam Coast Guard, are accused of embezzling VNĐ50 billion (US$2.1 million), a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death.

The seven accused are; former Lieutenant General Nguyễn Văn Sơn, Commander of the Việt Nam Coast Guard; former Lieutenant Generals Hoàng Văn Đồng and Doãn Bảo Quyết; former Brigadier Generals Phạm Kim Hậu and Bùi Trung Dũng; and former Colonels Nguyễn Văn Hưng and Bùi Văn Hòe.

The crime allegedly started in 2019 when the Việt Nam Coast Guard's Department of Technology was allocated VNĐ150 billion (US$6.3 million) to purchase equipment.

As the commander, Sơn ordered Hưng, the head of the Department of Technology, to transfer VNĐ50 billion (US$2.1 million) back to High Command. Hưng said he never did this as withdrawing that amount of money was too difficult and would require a unanimous decision from the head of the High Command.

In April 2019, Sơn, Đồng, Quyết, Hậu, and Dũng were alleged to have discussed sharing the money that was earmarked for transfer back to High Command.

"All parties agreed and had no counterarguments," said the indictment.

To access the VNĐ50 billion, Sơn ordered Hòe, who was Deputy Director of Finance, to cut back on funding for equipment repairs and the budget of four Coast Guard regions to further allocate VNĐ29 billion (US$1.2 million) to the Department of Technology.

In May 2019, Sơn signed a document on the budget plan of the Department of Technology and once again ordered Hưng to withdraw VNĐ50 billion for transfer back to High Command. Obeying Sơn's orders, Hưng asked six directors of the Department of Technology to retain VNĐ50 billion for Sơn.

The six directors were initially reluctant but carried as it was "an order by the high command and must be completed."

After the budget allocation was completed, Hưng is accused of assigning embezzlement criteria to all subordinate divisions.

The six directors then divided the funding into 29 bidding packages, with nine packages under VNĐ10 billion (US$426,000), so Sơn could approve the budget without reporting to the Department of Defence.

The group also allegedly asked investors to hike the prices of equipment, which they complied with to secure the bidding.

The investigation found that Sơn signed 29 bidding packages with 21 companies after recommendations from Hưng and Hòe, of which 24 contracts are related to the embezzlement.

All parties complied as arranged, and the money was transferred.

From December 2019 to January 2020, the contractors transferred the money back to the six directors in cash. Hưng then recollected the money to transfer to Sơn when they met in their respective offices.

After receiving the money, Sơn kept VNĐ10 billion for himself and divided the remaining VNĐ40 billion evenly between Đồng, Hậu, Quyết and Dũng.

In June 2020, Hậu confessed and sent a document to authorities with two recordings about his and his colleagues' involvement in the embezzlement in 2019.

The Ministry of Defence, the Central Army Inspection Committee and the Central Inspection Committee opened an investigation, during which the five main suspects each returned VNĐ10 billion.

The Central Army's Procuracy found the six directors of the Department of Technology to be accomplices, as their help allowed the embezzlement to happen. However, as they acted under orders, did not take bribes or other materialistic benefits, and were not aware of the embezzlement itself, the Procuracy are not treating them as criminals.

The same goes for the businesses that hiked the equipment prices, who also had no idea of the embezzlement.

Former Bình Thuận People's Committee Chairman and subordinates caused $1.9 billion in damages

Nguyễn Ngọc Hai pictured after his arrest in February 2022. — Photo

In another case, Nguyễn Ngọc Hai, former Chairman of the Bình Thuận People's Committee, and 11 other people were accused of unlawful allocation of land plots to the business behind the Tân Việt Phát 2 housing project.

After a year in detention, Hai was prosecuted by the Supreme People's Procuracy for "violating regulations of management and usage of public property, causing loss and waste".

Under Section 3, Rule 219 of the Criminal Code, Hai faces up to 20 years in prison.

Along with Hai, ten other people, Lương Văn Hải, Hồ Lâm, Lê Nguyễn Thanh Danh, Ngô Hiếu Toàn, Đặng Hoài Nhân, Nguyễn Thị Thu Phong, Nguyễn Thanh Cho, Lê Nam Hưng, Lê Anh Huy and Phạm Duy Cường, are also accused of "violating regulations of management and usage of public property, causing loss and waste".

Nguyễn Văn Phong, former Deputy Chairman of the Bình Thuận People's Committee, is accused of "negligence resulting in serious consequences".

According to the indictment, in 2013, the Bình Thuận People's Committee offered three plots of land over a total of 92,600 sq.m along the ĐT706B road of Phú Hải, Phan Thiết City, to investors with an asking price of VNĐ1.2 million (US$51.17) per sq.m for urban housing. However, no parties or individuals were interested.

Two years later, in July 2016, as the real estate prices in Bình Thuận continued to rise, Hai increased the asking price of the three plots to VNĐ1.6 million (US$68.23) per sq.m.

In early 2017, Tân Việt Phát JSC asked the Bình Thuận People's Committee to hand over the three plots without bidding to build the Tân Việt Phát 2 Trading Services and Housing Center.

The Bình Thuận Department of Natural Resources and Environment informed the People's Committee, and only charged the asking price in 2013 of VNĐ1.2 million, which was also agreed upon by the Department of Finance.

In February 2017, the Bình Thuận People's Committee sent a document to the Bình Thuận Department of Natural Resources and Environment to hand over the plots to Tân Việt Phát JSC. The company then paid the fees and the land rent and was allocated the plots to build the project.

According to the indictment, Hai, as the Chairman of the Bình Thuận People's Committee, is responsible for managing land and was aware of rulings concerning the calculation of land prices. However, he still handed over the three plots to Tân Việt Phát in 2017 at the price calculated in 2013.

As leaders of local authorities, the remaining eleven were also aware of the land price calculation rulings but still agreed to the handover, which caused VNĐ45.3 billion in damages to the public budget.

The Supreme People's Procuracy suggested the courts ensure these individuals repay the damages caused to the public budget, which Tân Việt Phát JSC are also responsible for. — VNS