An ex-leader of the agricultural department of Ben Tre Province, in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, has been sentenced to three years in prison for illegally exploiting forested land.
Tran Van Hung, former deputy director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, was sentenced to three years in jail for abusing his power, the Ben Tre People’s Court ruled on Monday.
Vo Van Ngan, former head of the provincial Protection Forest Management Committee, was also given a three-year custodial sentence, along with Nguyen Van Doan, the erstwhile head of the Forest Protection Department, who was given two and a half years.
Other defendants, namely Tiet Kiem Chieu and Nguyen Duc Duc, former members of staff at the agricultural department, received four-year probation periods.
|Tran Van Hung, former deputy director of the Ben Tre Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, during his trial on August 14, 2017. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The five are also responsible for paying VND412 million (US$18,134) to the Ben Tre Protection Forest Management Committee.
According to the indictment, in February 2012, Ngan directed his subordinates to make a false report of infestation, requesting the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development allow the exploitation of 25.8 hectares of forest at the Thanh Phu nature reserve.
On May 18, 2012, Hung, who was the deputy director of the farming department, submitted a proposal for the activity to the provincial People’s Committee, despite acknowledging that the exploitation was against the law.
Hung claimed at the time that trees in that section of the forest had stopped growing due to disease and infestation, and so the petition was approved by the administration in June.
|Vo Van Ngan, former head of the provincial Protection Forest Management Committee, at the trial. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Ngan then wrote a document, later approved by Hung, which appointed both the institution that would carry out the work and purchase the timber upon completion.
The dishonest scheme was discovered by the relevant authorities and the exploitation was ceased.
In September 2013, results of an examination by the Ben Tre Plant Protection Department showed that trees in the 25.8 hectare section of forest in the Thanh Phu nature reserve were in fact perfectly healthy and not affected by any disease, as claimed by Hung
At that time, Hung and Ngan were slapped with a warning and dismissed from their positions.
Authorities then brought the case back to life in May 2016, arresting Hung, Ngan, and the three other defendants.