Former Coast Guard commander charged with directing $2.1M embezzlement

By Thanh Lam    February 4, 2023 | 06:05 am PT
Former Coast Guard commander charged with directing $2.1M embezzlement
Former Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Son, former Commander of Vietnam Coast Guard. Photo by Hoang Phong
Nguyen Van Son, former Commander of Vietnam Coast Guard, had directed the embezzlement of VND50 billion ($2.1 million) from equipment purchase budget and shared it with four subordinates, prosecutors said.

After nine months of detention, Son, 59, has been charged by the Central Military Procuracy for "embezzlement of property," a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death.

He was arrested in April 2022 and identified as the mastermind of the case.

Six other people are facing trial for the same charge: former Lieutenant General Hoang Van Dong, former Political Commissar of the Coast Guard; former Major General Doan Bao Quyet, former Deputy Political Commissar of the Coast Guard; former Major General Pham Kim Hau, former Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard; former Major General Bui Trung Dung, former Deputy Commander of the Coast Guard; former Colonel Nguyen Van Hung, former head of the Department of Technology; and former Colonel Bui Van Hoe, former Deputy of the Finance Department of the Coast Guard Command.

According to the indictment, the crime began in February 2019 as the Ministry of National Defense allocated VND450 billion of administration budget to the Coast Guard for the year.

About VND150 billion of the fund was given to the Department of Technology to purchase equipment and materials.

Son, as the Coast Guard Commander, requested Hung to withdraw VND50 billion from the purchase budget and gave it to the Coast Guard Command.

Hung responded that his department had never done something like that, which was difficult as it was a huge amount of money. He asked that the withdrawal be approved by other military commanders.

Investigators said that in order to create conditions for Hung to withdraw VND50 billion, Son directed Hoe to cut back on all funding for maintenance and equipment repair of the four Coast Guard regions to allocate an additional VND29 billion for the department, thus raising its total budget to VND179 billion.

In early 2019, Son discussed the plan of swindling VND50 billion, 28% of the budget allocated to the Department of Technology, with four of his subordinates Dong, Quyet, Hau and Dung, and all agreed, the indictment stated.

On May 4, 2019, after signing a decision to assign the budget estimate of VND179 billion to the technology department, Son continued to ask Hung to withdraw VND50 billion to transfer it back to the Coast Guard Command.

Obeying Son’s orders, Hung asked six subordinates under his department to retain VND50 billion to give to Son for "public use."

The six subordinates were initially reluctant but Hung stressed "withdrawing VND50 billion was a task assigned by the high command and must be completed."

Hung was accused of instructing the six subordinate divisions to each give up between VND50 million and 25 billion from their funds to achieve the sum ordered by Son.

To implement Hung's plan, the heads of six divisions under the technology department divided their budget into 29 bidding packages for equipment purchase.

They asked contractors to hike the prices of equipment. In order to win the bids, participating companies had to agree to the Coast Guard’s suggestions and work with the division heads to increase materials and equipment prices or provide kickbacks.

The investigation found that Son signed 29 bidding packages with 21 companies following recommendations from Hung and Hoe, of which 24 contracts served the embezzlement purpose.

From December 2019 to January 2020, the contractors transferred the money to the six division heads in cash. Hung then recollected the money to give it to Son.

After receiving the money, Son kept VND10 billion for himself and divided the remaining VND40 billion evenly for Dong, Hau, Quyet and Dung.

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

The Ministry of National Defense, the Central Army Inspection Committee and the Central Inspection Committee launched an investigation, during which the five main suspects each returned VND10 billion.

The Central Military Procuracy found the six division heads of the Department of Technology to be accomplices. However, they only acted under orders of superiors and did not take bribes. Therefore, the prosecutors did not charge them as criminals.

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