Former deputy foreign minister gets 16 years in jail in Covid flight scandal

By Pham Du, Thanh Lam   July 28, 2023 | 02:20 am PT
Former deputy foreign minister gets 16 years in jail in Covid flight scandal
Former deputy minister of foreign affairs To Anh Dung is escorted by the police at the Hanoi People's Court, July 28, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Former deputy foreign minister To Anh Dung was sentenced to 16 years in jail while three other officials received life sentence Friday for receiving bribes in organizing Covid-19 repatriation flights.

The life imprisonment was given to former head of the Consular Department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, former secretary to the Deputy Minister of Health Pham Trung Kien, and Vu Anh Tuan, former official at the Immigration Management Department under the Ministry of Public Security.

Kien escaped the death sentence recommended by prosecutors as he was remorseful and had handed over VND42.2 billion ($1.78 million), the Hanoi's People Court said.

Dung and Lan meanwhile had received especially high amounts of money as bribes, causing social distress and people to lose faith, so they deserved sentences more severe than what prosecutors recommended, the court said.

Prosecutors had recommended 16 years for Dung and 19 years for Lan.

The trial was opened on July 11 and ended after 18 days, 12 days earlier than expected.

Among the 54 accused, 21 were charged of receiving bribes amounting to VND165 billion ($7 million), 23 of giving bribes, four of power abuse and four people of brokering bribes, and two of fraud.

Others convicted for receiving bribes received between 1.5 and 12 years in jail.

Former investigator Hoang Van Hung gets life imprisonment for obtaining property by fraud.

Former vice director of the Hanoi police Nguyen Anh Tuan gets five years in jail for brokering bribery, the most severe among the four accused of the crime.

Those accused of giving bribes, most of them business owners, received between suspended sentences to 11 years in prison. Most of the sentences were less severe than recommended by prosecutors.

In 2020 and 2021 the government organized flights to bring back Vietnamese citizens stranded abroad during the pandemic.

Businesses that wanted to operate the flights had to receive approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following an appraisal by several other ministries.

Over 1,000 flights brought back over 200,000 people from 62 countries and territories.

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