A judge who presided over a high-profile divorce in Vietnam caused quite a stir after announcing court fees ten times the actual amount before realizing and admitting his mistake, following media reports.
At a court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday, Judge Nguyen Van Xuan approved the divorce between Dang Le Nguyen Vu, chairman of Trung Nguyen Group, and his wife Le Hoang Diep Thao, co-founder of Trung Nguyen, effectively ending the couple’s years-long legal battle over their disputed assets, worth nearly US$354 million.
Trung Nguyen, founded in 1996 by Vu and Thao, is one of Vietnam’s largest and most well-known coffee producers and café chains.
After reading out a lengthy ruling on the division of their disputed properties, Judge Xuan announced that the couple would be subject to court fees totaling over VND80 billion ($3.45 million), after deducting the advance payments made by both parties.
Vu would cover VND47.4 billion ($2.05 million) of the fee, while Thao was told she would be responsible for the remaining VND32.6 million ($1.4 million), the judge read from a paper.
Combined, the requested payment would have set a record for the highest court fee ever issued on a divorce case in Vietnam.
However, questions were swiftly raised on the accuracy of the fee calculation made by the Ho Chi Minh City court after the ruling made headlines.
For civil cases where disputed assets exceed VND4 billion ($172,500) in value, Vietnamese laws dictate that court fees be calculated by adding VND112 million ($4,800) to 0.1 percent of the value that exceeds the threshold VND4 billion worth of the properties.
Using this formula, court fees in Vu and Thao’s divorce should only have been around VND8 billion ($345,000).
After Tuoi Tre News remarked on this inconsistency in an article published on Thursday, Judge Xuan has made a statement admitting that the court fees he announced during Wednesday’s ruling were inaccurate.
“This is a complicated case with big numbers and a lengthy ruling,” Xuan told Tuoi Tre on Thursday.
“To be honest, my eyes had all been blurred [by the time I read the court fees],” he said.
The printed ruling accurately stated that VND8 billion is the total court fees for the case, and it was his own error in reading that led to the misunderstanding, he added.
“I will send a notice to the litigants to inform them of the mistake,” Xuan said.