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2 ex-government officials receive long jail sentences for corruption in Vietnam

2020-01-17 16:19 Friday

A Vietnamese court sentenced a former information minister to life in prison earlier this month after he was found guilty of taking U.S.$ 3m in bribes in relation to a controversial deal at a leading state-run telecoms firm.

The news comes as the hardline government officials in Hanoi continue to pursue their anti-corruption initiative against previously-powerful individuals in the communist nation.


The charge of receiving U.S.$ 3m in bribes was levied against Nguyen Bac Son who approved the 2015 purchase of the TV firm Audio Visual Global, along with his then-deputy Truong Minh Tuan, that would have ultimately meant state-run telecoms firm Mobifone losing out to the tune of U.S.$ 300m – if it had been completed.

The trial of both men took place in the country's capital over two weeks, according to state-run media. The pair were formerly members of the authoritative communist party central committee.

Son was a minister from 2011 to 2016. He received a life prison sentence. Tuan took over as minister until he was fired in 2019. He received a sentence of 14 years.

State media quoted the verdict as remarking: "The behavior of the defendants caused bad opinions in society, and resulted in especially huge losses for the state."

Although the transaction never fully went through, the verdict also said that the pair's actions "caused U.S.$ 300m in losses to state coffers."

Son had reportedly asked for leniency in front of the court after he had already admitted guilt. Meanwhile, Tuan commented he was "shameful for his mistakes," according to media.

Initially, the prosecuting team had proposed that Son receive the death penalty. However, he avoided this fate after returning the money before the announcement of the final decision.

The two officials had been given the money by Pham Nhat Vu, director of the loss-making broadcaster. Vu had also been sentenced to three years in prison beforehand. Some 11 other officials involved in the case, meanwhile, received terms behind bars of between 2 and 23 years.

Vu is the brother of the richest man in Vietnam, Pham Nhat Vuong, who has assets totaling billions of US$ thanks to a wide-reaching business empire that includes real estate, resorts, pharmaceuticals, universities and cars.

In Vietnam, the case has captivated the public who are not used to watching powerful figures be taken down under the watch of the media.

The government in the Asia Pacific country has ramped up its own anti-corruption campaign ever since its transition to a hardline, ultra-conservative faction four years again. It has jailed a number of senior businessmen, officials and bankers during this time.

The country is one of Asia's quickest growing economies, but it has long been set back by deep-rooted corruption. Transparency International ranks it at 117 out of 180 countries on its official corruption scale.

The MobiFone investigation is the largest case to go public so far in the country's anti-corruption campaign. Plans to sell its stake in the telecoms firm has long been put forward as one of Vietnam's most anticipated privatizations of state assets, but as of yet it hasn't materialized.

Previously, the government had said it would sell a stake of up to 50 percent in the company by the end of 2020.

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