Former minister appeals against life sentence in TV firm acquisition scandal

By Pham Du   January 7, 2020 | 09:31 pm PT
Former minister appeals against life sentence in TV firm acquisition scandal
Former Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Bac Son leaves a court in Hanoi after receiving a life sentence, December 28, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Nguyen Bac Son, former Minister of Information and Communications, has appealed his life sentence, citing his age and previous service record.

Son, 67, has asked the Hanoi People's Court to open an appeals trial to review charges and punishment after he was given a life sentence last month for accepting $3 million in bribes to push for the illegal acquisition of private pay TV firm Audio Visual Global (AVG) by state-owned telecom giant MobiFone.

Son said the sentence was "very severe" and asked for a lighter sentence due to his old age, as well as his considerable contributions in the army and other achievements in his career.

He noted that he had confessed his mistake and made amends for the consequences. Son asked that he is given the benefit of the humane and lenient policies of the Communist Party and the state so that he can be reunited with his family.

Earlier, prosecutors had proposed the death sentence for Son. The court had rejected this, saying Son's family had returned VND66 billion ($3 million) on his behalf to the state budget.

Son and Truong Minh Tuan, then the deputy information minister, another main accused in the case, were charged with "violating regulations on the management and use of public capital that led to serious consequences" and "taking bribes."

The latter was jailed for 14 years in an unprecedented case in Vietnam's legal history as two former Vietnamese ministers were punished for corruption.

In 2015, telecom giant MobiFone, under the Ministry of Information and Communications, wanted to invest in the pay TV sector. Son promoted the acquisition of AVG and pushed for the deal to be done before his tenure was up.

After five rounds of negotiations, under Son's directions, AVG and MobiFone reached an agreement on October 2, 2015 for the latter to acquire a 95 percent stake in the former.

MobiFone thus acquired a 95 percent stake at AVG for nearly VND8.9 trillion ($382.6 million), many times higher than AVG's real value, causing losses of nearly VND6.6 trillion ($284.4 million) to the state budget.

Vietnam's corruption crackdown has intensified since it was launched in 2017, and a number of high-ranking officials, top military officers and businesspeople have been imprisoned.

Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, who has been spearheading the country's anti-corruption campaign, has repeatedly said that the corruption fight would maintain its momentum and spare no one.

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