Seven people, including five former generals and the former commander of the Việt Nam Coast Guard, are accused of embezzling VNĐ50 billion (US$2.1 million), a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death.

The seven accused are; former Lieutenant General Nguyễn Văn Sơn, Commander of the Việt Nam Coast Guard; former Lieutenant Generals Hoàng Văn Đồng and Doãn Bảo Quyết; former Brigadier Generals Phạm Kim Hậu and Bùi Trung Dũng; and former Colonels Nguyễn Văn Hưng and Bùi Văn Hòe.

The crime allegedly started in 2019 when the Việt Nam Coast Guard’s Department of Technology was allocated VNĐ150 billion (US$6.3 million) to purchase equipment.

As the commander, Sơn ordered Hưng, the head of the Department of Technology, to transfer VNĐ50 billion (US$2.1 million) back to High Command. Hưng said he never did this as withdrawing that amount of money was too difficult and would require a unanimous decision from the head of the High Command.

In April 2019, Sơn, Đồng, Quyết, Hậu, and Dũng were alleged to have discussed sharing the money that was earmarked for transfer back to High Command.

“All parties agreed and had no counterarguments,” said the indictment.

To access the VNĐ50 billion, Sơn ordered Hòe, who was Deputy Director of Finance, to cut back on funding for equipment repairs and the budget of four Coast Guard regions to further allocate VNĐ29 billion (US$1.2 million) to the Department of Technology.

In May 2019, Sơn signed a document on the budget plan of the Department of Technology and once again ordered Hưng to withdraw VNĐ50 billion for transfer back to High Command. Obeying Sơn’s orders, Hưng asked six directors of the Department of Technology to retain VNĐ50 billion for Sơn.

The six directors were initially reluctant but carried as it was “an order by the high command and must be completed.”

After the budget allocation was completed, Hưng is accused of assigning embezzlement criteria to all subordinate divisions.

The six directors then divided the funding into 29 bidding packages, with nine packages under VNĐ10 billion (US$426,000), so Sơn could approve the budget without reporting to the Department of Defence.

The group also allegedly asked investors to hike the prices of equipment, which they complied with to secure the bidding.

The investigation found that Sơn signed 29 bidding packages with 21 companies after recommendations from Hưng and Hòe, of which 24 contracts are related to the embezzlement.

All parties complied as arranged, and the money was transferred.

From December 2019 to January 2020, the contractors transferred the money back to the six directors in cash. Hưng then recollected the money to transfer to Sơn when they met in their respective offices.

After receiving the money, Sơn kept VNĐ10 billion for himself and divided the remaining VNĐ40 billion evenly between Đồng, Hậu, Quyết and Dũng.

In June 2020, Hậu confessed and sent a document to authorities with two recordings about his and his colleagues’ involvement in the embezzlement in 2019.

The Ministry of Defence, the Central Army Inspection Committee and the Central Inspection Committee opened an investigation, during which the five main suspects each returned VNĐ10 billion.

The Central Army’s Procuracy found the six directors of the Department of Technology to be accomplices, as their help allowed the embezzlement to happen. However, as they acted under orders, did not take bribes or other materialistic benefits, and were not aware of the embezzlement itself, the Procuracy are not treating them as criminals.

The same goes for the businesses that hiked the equipment prices, who also had no idea of the embezzlement.