Former Vietnamese lawmaker appeals life sentence in multi-million dollar housing fraud trial

By Viet Dung   October 27, 2017 | 09:06 pm PT
She denies masterminding the scam, saying her sentence is 'too harsh.'

A former lawmaker has appealed against the life sentence she received last week from a court in Hanoi that found her guilty of masterminding a multi-million dollar housing scam.

Chau Thi Thu Nga, 52, was sentenced to life imprisonment on October 16 for conning more than 500 people out of money through a bogus apartment development.

Hanoi People's Court on Friday said it had received Nga's appeal, in which she denied the charges she had been convicted of and claimed her sentence was too harsh.


Former lawmaker Chau Thi Thu Nga is brought to the trial in Hanoi on October 16. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

In the appeal letter, dated October 19, Nga claimed the prosecutors' indictment contained many conflicting, false and unclear information that do not substantiate the charges against her. She said the court had silenced her and turned down her requests when she tried to address these issues.

Additionally, Nga denied the court's accusation that she was the mastermind of the housing scam, and dismissed one of the evidence used against her as "totally untrue."

She also appealed against the court's decision to make her return VND54 billion ($2.4 million) to the scam's victims, pointing out that they all demanded houses instead of asking to get their money back.

"I appeal against the entire verdict handed down to me and find the sentence too harsh," Nga wrote. "I request that all issues I and my lawyers mentioned during the trial be reviewed."

At the two-week trial which ended on October 16, Nga was found guilty of cheating more than 500 potential homebuyers out of VND377 billion ($16.6 million) through an unlicensed property project.

The real estate company, where she held the posts of chairwoman and general director, was found to have collected the victims' large deposits for the project in Hanoi’s Cau Dien District between 2009 and 2013.

Many prospective buyers filed complaints after seeing no work carried out for years, and a subsequent investigation found the project had never been licensed and that Nga had pocketed most of the money. She was arrested in January 2015.

In addition to Nga's life sentence, the trial court also sentenced nine of her accomplices to up to six years in prison.

Nguyen Van Tuan, former chairman and director of another Hanoi housing company that jointly invested in the project, was sentenced to 18 years in jail at a different hearing in September last year.

Police have also opened a separate probe into Nga’s claims that she spent nearly half of the money paying for her seat on the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature. She was silenced twice by the court on October 5 as she was attempting to elaborate on such claims.

Vietnam's National Assembly has 500 members, 90 percent of whom are Communist Party members. Arrests of serving lawmakers are rare. Before Nga, the two most recent arrests took place in 2005 and 2006.

In 2005, Le Minh Hoang, former director of the Ho Chi Minh City Electricity Company, was charged with wrongdoings in the import of electronic electricity meters. He received a four-year sentence.

In 2006, Mac Kim Ton, director of the education department in the northern province of Thai Binh, was arrested for abuse of power and was sent to jail for seven years.

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