Construction execs get up to 2 years in jail over ruptures to notorious Hanoi water pipeline

A court in Hanoi on Tuesday sentenced two former construction executives to two years in prison for violating construction regulations, causing serious consequences.

Hoang The Trung, former director of the Song Da water pipeline project"s management unit, and Tran Cao Bang, former director of Vinaconex Glass Fibre Reinforced Polyester Pipe JSC. (VIGLAFICO), were found responsible for the pipeline rupturing 18 times in less than 5 years.

Seven other individuals, including several project managers and Vinaconex officials, were also found responsible and received between 20 months in prison to one year suspended sentences.

The defendants at the trials opening. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Dung.

The defendants at the opening day of the trial. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Dung.

State-owned construction corporation Vinaconex invested VND1.5 trillion ($67 million) in the Song Da water pipeline project, while its affiliate company VIGLAFICO supplied pipes and materials for the project.

Completed in February 2012, the pipeline provides clean water to thousands of households in the capital. However, it ruptured 18 times from its completion to October 2016, causing losses worth nearly VND17 billion. The ruptures also left 177,000 houses without access to clean water for nearly 390 hours.

An investigation in 2016 found 14 former Vinaconex executives and project managers responsible for the ruptures. They allegedly violated construction and investment regulations by changing the construction material to a low-quality, untested fiberglass composite, and selecting a contractor that lacked the necessary ability and experience for the project, according to investigators.

Criminal charges were however dropped against five of them, who reportedly had good personal records and had cooperated with investigators.

However, the country"s top prosecutor"s office in August last year questioned this decision.

At Tuesday"s trial, the remaining nine defendants also received lighter sentences than the 3-10 year jail terms specified in the Penal Code. The court decided to be lenient because it said the defendants had good personal records and there were no aggravating circumstances.

The Song Da water pipeline project was launched in 2004 and divided into two phases. The first phase of the project supplies 300,000 cubic meters of water to the capital every day.

The second phase kicked off in October 2016 and is expected to double the total capacity to 600,000 cubic meters.