A man was condemned to seven years behind bars by a court in southern Vietnam on Friday for extorting money from a local beverage maker after discovering an unopened bottle of the company’s energy drink that had a fly inside.
On December 3, 2014, Vo Van Minh found a fly in one of the Number 1 bottles at his eatery in Tien Giang Province, and decided to ask its producer, Tan Hiep Phat Group, to pay VND500 million (US$23,300) in return for his silence.
He had demanded VND1 billion ($46,600) before halving it following a compromise with the firm.
The Tien Giang court ruled that it was an act of extortion of assets, thus deciding on the seven-year jail term for the 35-year-old man.
Minh had deliberately infringed the property rights of the drink maker, causing social instability, and therefore he deserves to be given harsh punishment, according to the court.
He should have reported the issue to local authorities, which would have been better for the entire society, other consumers and Tan Hiep Phat, according to prosecutors.
The court ruled that by demanding money from the drink maker, the man had “mentally intimidated the company and caused harm for the society.”
Minh was about to receive the cash from a company representative on January 27 when police officers showed up to capture him.
Tan Hiep Phat had notified local officials of what it considered ‘Minh’s blackmail’ before the representative met him.
Even though the man did not receive the money, it had already been a criminal offense when the company “was so threatened [by Minh] that it had to agree to pay the sum,” according to the verdict.
Tan Hiep Phat Group, based in the southern province of Binh Duong, is the maker of such popular products as Number 1 energy drink and Dr Thanh herbal tea.
The company renamed itself Number 1 Group in September, following the dispute with Minh, which has severely tainted its reputation given dense media coverage.
Members of the public have grouped themselves into two camps, for and against the firm.
The first group, seemingly outnumbered by the second, has maintained that Tan Hiep Phat was right to have police officers arrest Minh, whereas the other has insisted it was unethical for the firm to treat its customer that way.
A huge wave of people have taken to the Internet to urge one another to ‘boycott’ products made by Tan Hiep Phat, which has led to the company admitting to suffering whopping damage worth at least VND2 trillion ($89.29 million).