Vietnam’s ex top cop gets nine-year jail term in gambling case

By Staff reporters   November 30, 2018 | 02:46 am PT
Vietnam’s ex top cop gets nine-year jail term in gambling case
Phan Van Vinh, former director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, is in court in Phu Tho Province in northern Vietnam on Friday. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
A former top cop involved in a multimillion-dollar online gambling case was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.  

A court in the northern province of Phu Tho, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Hanoi, pronounced sentences against Phan Van Vinh, former director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, and Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the ministry’s Department for High-Tech Crime Prevention.

They were found guilty of "abusing power or position in the performance of official duties."

Vinh got nine years in jail while Hoa was sentenced to 10 years. They were also fined VND100 million ($4,300) each.

Vinh was arrested in April and Hoa a month earlier.

Investigations found Vinh had helped Nguyen Thanh Hoa and Nguyen Van Duong, chairman of high-tech security development company CNC, to set up the gambling ring, which was worth around $420 million when it was busted.

Duong had previously been working with Hoa’s division to provide technical support before setting up the gambling service in May 2015 with Phan Sao Nam, founder and former board chairman of major online communications firm VTC.

According to investigators, the gambling ring headed by Nam and Duong on web portals Rikvip/ had established a large network of 25 "tier 1 agencies" and nearly 5,900 "tier 2 agencies" with nearly 43 million user accounts since being launched in mid-2015.

The illegal ring was found to have generated a total income of over VND9.8 trillion ($426 million) and a profit of VND4.7 trillion. Out of this profit, Nam received nearly VND1.5 trillion, Duong got over VND1.6 trillion while a group of other suspects earned VND1.57 trillion.

The ring was first uncovered when Phu Tho police were investigating a fraud case involving mobile top-up cards in May last year. The scammer in the case claimed he had redeemed all the cards for virtual currencies used in an online gambling card game.

Investigating this claim, police discovered Nam and Duong's ring, which was run using the two online game portals that resembled professional casinos in which players could gamble virtual money and convert their winnings to real money.

Prosecutors said Vinh had not only turned a blind eye to the formation of the ring, but also actively signed documents to facilitate its formation.

Hoa was ordered by Vinh to sign documents allowing the ring to continue to function.

Vinh’s crime has had "extremely severe consequences" and "tarnished the police’s reputation," and Hoa tried to hinder investigations, the indictment said.

"I will have to say sorry for the rest of my life because the consequence of the case is so serious," Vinh told the court last week.

He was taken to hospital on Friday suffering from high blood pressure and wasn't present to hear the sentencing.

Organizing gambling or running gambling dens is punishable by up to 10 years in jail in Vietnam.

Prosecutors said Vinh and Hoa were accomplices who worked together to help Duong organize the gambling ring. However, as investigators had not found any evidence showing that the duo had earned individual benefits, they were charged with "abusing power."

For organizing gambling and money laundering, Duong got 10 years in jail while Nam got five years.

The trial that opened on November 12 also heard cases of 90 other defendants, who were charged with organizing gambling, money laundering, illegal trading of invoices, and using the internet to appropriate assets. Of those, 17 were fined VND40 million each, 22 got probation and the rest received up to three years in jail.

Vietnam has over recent years arrested and tried scores of public officials and businesspeople in large-scale corruption crackdown.

Friday verdicts came a day after police arrested Tran Bac Ha, former chairman of top bank BIDV for allegedly violating banking regulations.

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