Vietnamese prosecutors seek 7.5 years in jail for ex top cop

By Bao Ha, Pham Du   November 21, 2018 | 01:42 am PT
Vietnamese prosecutors seek 7.5 years in jail for ex top cop
Phan Van Vinh, former director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, stands trial in Phu Tho Province on November 19, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du
Prosecutors have sought a jail term at seven or seven and a half years for a senior police official involved in a multimillion-dollar online gambling case.

A court in the northern province of Phu Tho, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Hanoi, has completed questioning 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 in a case where they’ve been charged with "abusing of power or position in performance of official duties."

Vinh was arrested in April and Hoa a month earlier.

The trial, which opened on November 12, also questioned 90 other defendants, who are charged with six different crimes: gambling, organizing gambling, money laundering, and trading illegal receipts.

By Wednesday, 89 of the defendants, including public workers and college students, confessed that the charges were correct, while the other three, Le Thi Lan Thanh, Vinh and Hoa, denied them.

Vinh said he did not engage in "abuse of power," and was only guilty of being "irresponsible." Hoa blamed his actions on others.

Investigators said 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 worked 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.

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 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 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, they charged.

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

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

According to the nation’s premier prosecuting agency, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, Vinh and Hoa were accomplices who worked together to help organize the gambling ring.

Since investigators have not found any evidence proving the duo gained any individual benefits, they were being charged with "abusing power."

The prosecution suggested that Vinh and Hoa be jailed for 7- 7.5 years and 7.5-8 years, respectively.

The court should sentence Duong and Nam to 11-13 years and 6-7 years in prison respectively, it added.

Final verdicts are expected when the trial wraps up early next month.

Prosecutors have said Vinh and Hoa will be investigated further to find out if they were involved in bribery and other forms of corruption.

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