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Dr. Nguyen Thi Kim Vinh from LNT& Partners obtains victory for clients in timber case

June 6, 2018

Dr.Nguyen Thi Kim Vinh (a former Supreme Court Judge and currently a Partner at LNT & Partners), and three other attorneys, Mr Le Van Hoan, Mr Tran Cao Dai Ky Quan and Mr Nguyen Thanh Cong, were successful in protecting their clients’ interests in the Kon Tum Provincial People’s Court on June 1, 2018.

Dr Nguyen Thi Kim Vinh (the woman in the left) is working with the other attorney.

The Provincial People’s Court, after a day of trial, declared that the five defendants, Phan Tien Dung, Le Quoc Khanh, Nguyen Van Bay, Nguyen Ngoc Binh and Nguyen Van Thu, did not commit the crime of property theft. The Court also reversed the Dak Ha People’s Court’s verdict and ended the case.

According to the facts of the case, on April 2016, a Forest Ranger in the Dak Uy Special Use Forest, Phan Tien Dung, allowed four people to go into the forest to saw dry techicai sitan wood, but they were detected. The sawed timber was 0.123 cubic meters, worth more than 19 million Vietnam Dong. In September 2016, the People’s Court of Dak Ha District sentenced the defendants to a period of from 12 to 15 months in prison for theft of property. The defendants appealed. In March 2017, the first instance Provincial People’s Court dismissed the first instance verdict. At the second instance trial in September 2017, the People’s Court of Dak Ha District sentenced the defendants to 11 to 14 months in prison for theft of property.

According to the facts of the case, on April 2016, a Forest Ranger in the Dak Uy Special Use Forest, Phan Tien Dung, allowed four people to go into the forest to saw dry techicai sitan wood, but they were detected. The sawed timber was 0.123 cubic meters, worth more than 19 million Vietnam Dong. In September 2016, the People’s Court of Dak Ha District sentenced the defendants to a period of from 12 to 15 months in prison for theft of property. The defendants appealed. In March 2017, the first instance Provincial People’s Court dismissed the first instance verdict. At the second instance trial in September 2017, the People’s Court of Dak Ha District sentenced the defendants to 11 to 14 months in prison for theft of property.

On appeal, defense counsel asked the court to declare the defendants not guilty. According to defense counsel, Joint Circular No. 19/2007 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, and the Supreme People’s Court, the Court could only hold individuals liable when the timber was sawed in a forest plantation or regeneration forest. Dak Uy Forest is a special use forest, so it was impossible to impose criminal liability on the defendants for theft of property.

In addition, the defendants could not be liable under Article 175 (violating the regulations on exploitation and protection of forests), because according to Decree 157/2013, the defendants took the log with only 0.123 cubic meters (less than 5 cubic meters), which was an insufficient size to qualify for criminal prosecution.

In addition, defense counsel cited a number of previous cases similar to the current case in which only administrative sanctions were imposed. For example, in January 2016 in Dak Uy Forest, two sawed logs were discovered, including timber with a volume of 0.424 cubic meters and another log with a volume of 0.128 cubic meters. Forest management boards handled the administrative violations according to Point B, Clause 3, Article 12 of Decree No. 157/2013. “I do not understand why in this case, Dak Ha district prosecutors still have five defendants,” one lawyer said.