Well-known lawyer couple found guilty of abetting tax evasion

By Xuan Ngoc   November 15, 2019 | 08:03 am PT
Well-known lawyer couple found guilty of abetting tax evasion
Lawyer Tran Vu Hai at the Nha Trang People's Court on November 13, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuoc.
Tran Vu Hai, a lawyer famous for taking on high-profile cases, and his wife have been found guilty of abetting tax evasion and causing losses to the state budget.

The Nha Trang People’s Court found Hai, 57, head of the Tran Vu Hai Attorney Office, and his wife Ngo Tuyet Phuong, director of Hanoi Law Co., Ltd., guilty of abetting tax evasion that caused losses of VND280 million ($12,100) to the state budget.

The court on Friday ruled that the lawyer couple were aware of tax evasion by two other defendants in the case, but signed contracts and related papers to cover up the illegal act.

Hai and his wife were sentenced to 12 months of non-custodial reform, and fined VND20 million ($864) each.

According to the indictment, in June 2016, Nguyen Thi Hanh, 47, and her half-brother Ngo Van Lam, 37, met up with lawyer Hai and his wife to discuss selling a property in Nha Trang for VND16 billion ($691,000). The lawyer couple paid an advance for the purchase.

In August, Hanh and Lam went to a notary office in Nha Trang, and signed a contract to transfer the property to the couple for VND12 billion ($518,000). Later, both parties destroyed the contract and signed a new one with the value of VND1.8 billion ($77,700) for the purpose of evading personal income tax.

Hanh and Lam, both residents of Nha Trang Town, a famous beach destination in central Khanh Hoa Province, were found to be the principal and accomplice that engaged in the tax evasion.

While Hanh was the mastermind, Lam had signed papers and carried out procedures related to transferring real estate to evade personal income tax, the judges found.

Both were sentenced to 18-months of non-custodial reform and fined VND50 million ($2,160) each. Lam was also ordered to pay the VND280 million ($12,100) in tax arrears. In the event that he defaults, the other three defendants will be jointly liable, the court ruled.

The fact that all four were first-time offenders was considered a mitigating factor in sentencing them, the court said.

Lawyer Hai and his wife were defended by a team of 24 lawyers in the trial that opened Wednesday. Recording devices, cameras and mobile phones were not allowed during the hearings.

Hai, who has been practicing in Hanoi for a long time and recently expanded his operations to the south, has been renowned as an outspoken lawyer willing to represent ordinary people in high-profile, controversial cases. 

In 2011, he defended Cu Huy Ha Vu, a Vietnamese legal scholar who was sentenced to seven years in jail for conducting propaganda against the government.

In 2012, Hai and a team of lawyers defended Doan Van Vuong, who had opposed local authorities for expropriating land in Tien Lang District in the northern city of Hai Phong. Vuong and others’ families won the case. Authorities had to return the land and top district officials lost their jobs.

In a similar case in 2017, Hai defended people living in Dong Tam, a village on Hanoi's outskirts, who fought for what they said was their agricultural land, while officials said it belonged to the military. In April this year, the land was declared military property and local authorities were told to clearly apprise the villagers of the facts. 

Hai also represented Huynh Van Nen, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1999 and spent nearly 17 years in prison before being acquitted in 2015.

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