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Nine jailed for combined 81 years over large-scale deforestation in south-central Vietnam

The nine defendants stand trial at the People’s Court in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh on October 22, 2018.
The nine defendants stand trial at the People’s Court in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh on October 22, 2018.

Nine people have been sentenced to a total of 81 years in prison for destroying more than 64 hectares of forest in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh.

The provincial People’s Court began the trial regarding the deforestation in An Hung Commune, An Lao District on Monday.

The nine defendants belonged to three separate groups who were responsible for cutting down trees in an over 64 hectare area of a local forest.

About 25.9 hectares was protection forest, which is used to mitigate the effects of erosion and landslides, while the rest belonged to a production forest.

According to the indictment, the three groups committed their illegal acts from July 2015 to August 2017.

The first group was led by Le Van Thiet, 56, general director of Thuong Thao JSC based in the provincial capital of Quy Nhon.

Thiet directed Nguyen Van Ri, one of his senior employees, to hire people for the clearance of 37.5 hectares within the forest, resulting in damage worth over VND1.9 billion (US$81,098).

A section of the forest in An Hung Commune is destroyed by the defendants.
A section of the forest in An Hung Commune is destroyed by the defendants.

Thiet was sentenced to 12 years, while Ri was slapped with a 11-year jail term.

Phan De, a resident in Hoai Nhon District, was put behind bars for seven years for being involved in Thiet’s team.

The second group included Vo Dan, Le Hong Duc, Le Xuan Hau, and Nguyen Nguyen Thuc, who damaged nearly 17.8 hectares of forest.

They were sentenced to eight to ten years in prison.

Van Ngoc Trien and Nguyen Cu, who destroyed nearly seven hectares, were both slapped with an eight-year term.

The nine defendants were also required to pay a combined VND4.8 billion ($204,897) to compensate for the damage.

This is considered the largest-scale deforestation case in Binh Dinh.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc previously ordered harsh punishment upon those responsible.

Four local forest protection officers are being reviewed for their oversight that led to such serious consequences.