The granting of a divorce to Dang Thi Hoang Yen from overseas Vietnamese Jimmy Tran in 2010 had attracted considerable controversy because it happened at time when the latter was facing investigations on swindling charges.
Leading lawyers had then speculated that the couple were getting a divorce in an attempt to save their property from legal encumbrances.
Dang Thi Hoang Yen, 53, got married to Jimmy Tran, an overseas Vietnamese in the US, on August 17, 2007. They stayed and worked in the US until September 2008 when they moved to Vietnam.
Yen is a National Assembly deputy from Long An Province and chairwoman of the Tan Tao Group, an industrial park and infrastructure developer.
She was listed as the richest Vietnamese woman by VnExpress newswire in 2009 with stocks valued at VND2.697 trillion (US$129.4 million). She dropped to second place in 2010 at VND2.047 trillion ($98.2 million).
On September 16, 2010, the Ministry of Public Security’s investigators announced they were file swindling charges against Jimmy Tran for appropriating money from some companies in Vietnam. He had moved to the US in July.
At around this time, Yen filed a suit for divorce at a court in Long An Province (where she is registered as a permanent resident).
The Long An People’s Court on October 6, 2010 issued a divorce verdict signed by judge Le Van Lam giving Yen ownership of a majority of the couple’s properties while Jimmy could only keep $50,000.
Irregularities in the case were first detected by the provincial prosecutors’ office several months later. On January 4, 2011, the agency requested the court to forward them a copy of the verdict as required by law.
Two days later, they received a nine-page verdict.
But in a strange development, 12 days later, another copy was mailed to them. This verdict had ten pages but was also dated the same day and signed by the same judge.
The extra page in the second verdict was not well written in Vietnamese and read like a poor translation from a foreign language.
Another shady detail was the timing: The verdict said the trial ended at 11:05 a.m. on October 6, 2010 while another document said the court handed the verdict to Yen at 11:00 a.m. the same day.
The court also violated regulations on trial fees in charging Yen a sum of VND200,000. According to the Trial Fee Ordinance, trial fee is VND112 million plus 0.1 percent of the involved property if it is worth more than VND4 billion.
In August 2011, the Party unit of the Provincial People's Court rebuked Judge Lam for wrongdoings in the case.
Lawyers said the court should have delayed the divorce case because Jimmy was being investigated for criminal charges then.
Lawyer Le Minh Triet of the Tien Giang Bar Association said it was strange that while Jimmy Tran was being investigated for swindle charges, the Long An People’s Court opened a divorce trial for them.
“It looked like a ploy to hide their properties,” he said.
Triet also said it was strange that the provincial court had not suspended the case after Yen failed to respond to its summons for the third time.
Judge Le Quoc Dung, who had told the media on April 3 that he has been assigned to reopen the case, said he would summon Yen for the fourth time on April 11.
The controversial divorce case has involves Le Hoang Hung, a journalist with Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper who was fatally set on fire at his home in Long An Province’s Tan An Town on January 19, 2011.
After the divorce verdict, Hung had approached the court several times to get comments from the people involved over the alleged irregularities.
After directing him here and there for some time, the court finally agreed on January 18, 2011 (Tuesday) that the deputy head judge Le Quang Hung would answer him within that week.
Hung was set on fire the very next day and died in hospital ten days later. On his deathbed, he mentioned that he had intended to report on irregularities surrounding Yen's verdict, the Nguoi Lao Dong reported.
On March 29, Hung’s wife Tran Thuy Lieu was sentenced to life in prison for murdering her husband but his family appealed the verdict, saying there must be other culprits involved.