Hanoi court stops former lawmaker from testifying about paying bribe for parliamentary seat

By VnExpress   October 5, 2017 | 05:11 pm GMT+7
Hanoi court stops former lawmaker from testifying about paying bribe for parliamentary seat
Chau Thi Thu Nga, a former lawmaker, stands trial in Hanoi for housing fraud. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Hoa

The defendant asked to speak twice, but the court said the matter is under investigation and should be addressed at a separate trial.

A former lawmaker who is on trial for housing fraud was silenced twice by a Hanoi court today as she was attempting to answer a question about a $1.5 million bribe she allegedly paid for a seat on the legislative National Assembly.

Chau Thi Thu Nga, 52, who was also chairwoman and general director of Hanoi-based property firm Housing Group, is accused of swindling hundreds of potential homebuyers out of VND377 billion ($16.6 million) through an unlicensed property in Hanoi’s Cau Dien District.

Nga was arrested in January 2015 following complaints from prospective buyers who paid deposits between 2009 and 2013. An investigation found the project had not been licensed.

During the hearing, which opened on Monday and is scheduled to last 18 days, Nga said she had used the money to pay her employees, business partners, buy company cars and invest in several projects, including several film productions.

On Thursday, her defense lawyer mentioned the $1.5 million that she had told police she used to pay for her seat on the assembly.

But when Nga tried to answer the question the court silenced her, saying that the recipient of the money was still being verified, Tuoi Tre reported.

The matter was part of a separate case and should not be used to waste time at the ongoing trial, the judge said.

Nga then repeated her request to address the question, but the judge ordered her to return to her seat.

Nine former executives at Nga’s company are also in the dock accused of being her accomplices.

Nguyen Van Tuan, former chairman and director of another Hanoi housing company which jointly invested in the project, was brought to trial in May last year but the court put the case on hold pending a further investigation.

The National Assembly, Vietnam’s top legislature, has some 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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