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Vietnam seeks 7-8-year jail terms for former police chiefs implicated in gambling bust

Thursday, November 22, 2018, 15:18 GMT+7
Vietnam seeks 7-8-year jail terms for former police chiefs implicated in gambling bust
Phan Van Vinh, former general director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, stands trial at a court in Phu Tho Province in northern Vietnam in November 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Prosecutors in the northern province of Phu Tho are seeking jail terms of seven to eight years for two former police chiefs involved in a massive online gambling ring busted in April.

A court in Phu Tho, 80 kilometers northwest of Hanoi, wrapped up the questioning of 92 suspects in the multimillion-dollar gambling case on Wednesday, more than a week into their trial which began on November 12, and invited public prosecutors to state their proposed sentences for the defendants.

A jail term of 7-7.5 years was sought for Phan Van Vinh, former general director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security.

Meanwhile, Vinh’s subordinate Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the ministry’s Hi-Tech Crime Department, could face 7.5-8 years behind bars.

Jail terms of up to 13 years were also sought for other defendants, including leaders of companies involved in running gambling websites.

Vinh, 63, played a leading role in directing Hoa, 60, to organize the gambling operations of such websites, prosecutors said.

Vinh also hid his involvement from his superiors and tried to erase all traces of his illegal doings during an inspection by authorities.

There are “signs” that the two former police chiefs had received bribes, but there is insufficient evidence to suggest they had personally benefited from the ring’s activities, according to prosecutors.

Therefore, the sentences sought for Vinh and Hoa were pursuant to penalty ranges applicable to the crime of “abusing power and authority while performing duties."

Both men have denied the charges.

Vinh claims he is not guilty of "abuse of power" and was merely being "irresponsible," while Hoa blamed others for his actions.

Investigators said Vinh and Hoa have helped Nguyen Van Duong, chairman of hi-tech security development company CNC, and Phan Sao Nam, founder and former board chairman of major communications firm VTC Online, set up the gambling ring in May 2015, running on multiple websites under different names.

When the ring was busted in April, Phu Tho police seized assets amounting to more than VND1.34 trillion (US$57 million).

In total, it is estimated that gamblers and members of the ring had processed transactions worth VND9.7 trillion ($415 million) during its run, including $3.6 million in foreign currencies already transferred abroad.

The ring’s profits are estimated to have totaled VND3.45 trillion ($148 million).

Forty-three million users signed up for online accounts used for gambling on sites run by the defendants, Phu Tho police said.

Prosecutors sought jail terms of six to seven years for Nam and 11-13 years for Duong.

Vinh and Hoa’s actions had led to “extremely severe consequences” and “tarnished the reputation of the police force,” according to their indictment.

Final verdicts for the defendants are expected when the trial wraps up next week.

Prosecutors have said an investigation will be launched into details that have not been made clear in the first phase of the probe.

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Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

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