HANOI, Vietnam – A court in northern Vietnam on Friday jailed two former police generals for protecting a multimillion-dollar online gambling ring as the Communist government steps up its crackdown on graft.
Former national police chief Phan Van Vinh and former head of hi-tech crimes police department Nguyen Thanh Hoa were sentenced to nine and 10 years respectively after being convicted of abuse of power at the end of the three-week trial by the People's Court in Phu Tho province.
Two gambling ring leaders, Nguyen Van Duong, former chairman of the private company CNC, and Phan San Nam, former chairman of VTC Online joint stock company, were sentenced to 10 and five years respectively for organizing gambling and money laundering.
The ring had operated from April 2015 until it was broken up in August last year with some $425 million having been gambled online. The ring made $200 million in illegal profits, according to the government.
They were among 92 defendants involved in the case.
"Vinh's acts have caused discontent among the public, reduced the reputation of the police force and people's trust," state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted the verdict as saying. "Vinh had intentionally covered up the crimes committed by Duong and his accomplices."
Vinh, who was general director of the General Department of Police under the Ministry of Public Security until his retirement two years ago, was arrested in July while Hoa was arrested a month earlier. Following their arrests, the ministry stripped both men of their ranks.
The two allowed CNC company to rent an office from the General Department of Police, which indirectly facilitated the crimes and hindered their staff and other agencies in investigating the gambling ring, the verdict said.
During the hearing, prosecutors quoted Duong as telling police investigators that he bribed Vinh with $2.8 million, a $7,000 Rolex watch and gave Hoa $936,000, state media reported.
The verdict, however, said there has been no evidence to prove the two former police generals were involved in bribery.
The foreign media were not allowed to cover the trial.
Vietnam's unprecedented crackdown on graft had previously focused on corruption at the state energy giant PetroVietnam and the banking sector but appears to be spreading to the police force.
Scores of PetroVietnam senior officials and bankers have been brought to trial, the most high-ranking of them being Dinh La Thang, a former Politburo member who was sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison for mismanagement in two separate cases earlier this year dating to his time leading PetroVietnam.
He was the first Politburo member to be jailed in decades.