Vietnamese prosecutors demand life sentence for former lawmaker in housing fraud case

By Bao Ha   October 8, 2017 | 07:35 pm PT
Vietnamese prosecutors demand life sentence for former lawmaker in housing fraud case
Chau Thi Thu Nga at a trial in Hanoi for housing fraud. Photo by VnExpress/Bao Ha
An investigation is also underway into her claim that she paid $1.5 million for her parliamentary seat.

Vietnam’s top prosecutors called for a life sentence on Monday for a former legislator accused of cheating potential homebuyers out of VND377 billion ($16.6 million) through an unlicensed property project.

Chau Thi Thu Nga, 52, who was a member of the legislative National Assembly, is on trial in Hanoi for swindling money from more than 500 people through a bogus apartment development.

The Land and Housing Construction and Investment JSC (Housing Group), where Nga worked as chairwoman and general director, collected 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.

Nga was arrested in January 2015.

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

Investigators are still verifying her claims that she paid $1.5 million of the money to buy her seat on the national legislature. The court silenced her twice last week when she tried to raise the subject.

Nine former company execs are also in the dock.

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 shelved the case pending a further investigation.

The National Assembly 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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